Dogs Trust

Dogs Trust view on sale of puppies

“Dogs Trust views on third party sales”

The welfare of our nation’s dogs is Dogs Trust’s highest priority and the issue of third party sales is a complex and emotive one. We understand people are passionate about it – we are too, so it’s important for us to give you our reasons as to why we don’t believe introducing a ban at this time will solve the problem…

  1. Third party sales refers to the selling of dogs anywhere away from their breeder including places such as high street pet shops and puppy dealers.
  2. Dogs Trust wants to see an end to third party sales, including sales in pet shops, although in reality, thankfully, there are very few high street pet shops left. Ultimately, everyone in the animal welfare sector wants to put a stop to unscrupulous breeders; we just have differing opinions on how to get there. We believe that introducing a ban at this time is not wise as it fails to deal with the root causes of the problem – a woefully low supply of puppies from ethical sources. As such, any ban will simply drive the trade further underground and make enforcement harder.
  3. As long as the supply of puppies from responsible breeders falls short of meeting the growing demand in the UK, dishonest breeders will breed dogs for increasing profits and evade the law, once again making enforcement even more difficult. We already know that this is happening now.
  4. This shortage of ethical breeders is fuelling the mass importation of dogs into the UK – both legally and illegally. Since 2014 our own undercover investigations into the illegal importation of puppies have shaped our view that a ban on third party sales would not deter such criminal activity. Traders are illegally importing puppies under the Pet Travel Scheme rules, which are intended for pets, rather than under the commercial movement rules and so would not be deterred by a ban on third party sales. This trade is rife and sentences for offenders are utterly inadequate. Read more about our fight against puppy smuggling here (link to PS page).
  5. We believe in evidence based solutions and we’re taking action by pulling together a research team to carry out further investigations into dog breeding and selling in the UK. The team will look at problems of enforcement, the need for tougher sentencing and securing our borders against the illegal importation of puppies, as well as gathering evidence that can lead to proposals designed to address the root causes of the problem.
  6. Independent research (carried out by research and strategy consultancy Populus*) showcases the complexity of this issue as it revealed that well over half (61%) of people think that a ban should definitely not be imposed until we know more about the consequences of doing so. A further 11% of respondents think that there should definitely not be a ban, whereas only 28% of respondents think it is sensible to introduce a ban now.
  7. At the present time we believe a better route is a robust regime of licensing and inspection of breeders and traders as well as increased enforcement of the law.
  8. The Government recently reviewed the legislation on dog breeding and sales and a ban on third party sales was not one of the proposals considered. Dogs Trust welcomed new reforms announced in February 2017 which will explore new parameters to develop tighter inspections on breeding, pet selling and animal boarding establishments by those who are trained in animal welfare. To make this work we believe that local authority inspectors need greater support and resources to enforce these tighter licensing rules.
  9. We were, however, disappointed that the Government did not take on our recommendation for anyone trying to sell a litter of puppies to be registered and to set the statutory licensing threshold for dog breeders at more than one litter. This would have brought more breeders onto the radar of the local authorities and given traceability of all puppies.
  10. If a ban on third party sales was introduced, the options for getting a dog would either be directly from the breeder or from a rehoming organisation. As rehoming organisations are not regulated, and anyone can set themselves up as one, we are deeply concerned this could be exploited by puppy traders setting themselves up as rehoming organisations. Defra recently announced there will be no regulation of rehoming organisations so there is already a gaping loophole.
  11. Whilst we support a ban on puppies being sold away from their mothers, we have to be mindful of how a third party ban would be enforced due to limited resources. We are already hearing reports of dealers blatantly buying puppies in Ireland and selling them in the UK as 'rescue'. We are also aware of people using fake mums to dupe unsuspecting members of the public into thinking they are buying a puppy responsibly. Our Puppy Smuggling investigations since 2014 have also informed our views.
  12. As a rehoming organisation we care for over 15,000 rescue dogs every year and in an ideal world all potential dog owners would rehome a rescue dog. But, in reality we know first-hand that some dog owners only want a specific breed of puppy and are not willing to wait. Rescue organisations would not have the quantity of pups to meet the demand.
  13. The animal welfare sector and the government need to continue to work collaboratively to facilitate a marketplace dominated by ethical suppliers of puppies for an ever increasing population of dog owners. Radical measures are needed and our hope is that our research will open the door to the most appropriate path.

*Populus interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2,079 UK adults aged 18+ from its online panel between 24-26th March 2017. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at