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Actor Daniel Brocklebank backs charity campaign warning dog owners of the ‘Dogfishing’ puppy smuggling scam

Actor Daniel Brocklebank is teaming up with Dogs Trust on its Don’t Be Dogfished campaign to help stop dog lovers falling victim to deceitful puppy sellers online. 

Daniel is backing the campaign after recently adopting four-month-old Dachshund pup, Karen-Jean, who was being cared for at Dogs Trust Manchester after being illegally smuggled into the UK from Poland with her littermates. Karen-Jean will have to share the limelight with Daniel’s other smuggled pup, Colin who Daniel adopted from the rehoming centre last March. 

Colin was one of a litter of six puppies that were smuggled illegally into the UK from Hungary, travelling over 1,000 miles in horrendous conditions before being seized at the border by enforcement authorities and handed into Dogs Trust. 

The UK’s leading dog charity launched the campaign after releasing new statistics showing how unsuspecting dog lovers may have been conned or ‘dogfished’ into buying puppies illegally imported into the UK, leaving them heartbroken and almost £500 on average out-of-pocket. (1) 

The Don’t Be Dogfished campaign is asking potential new owners to take the following steps to avoid being misled when buying a puppy: 

  • Always see puppy and mum together at their home and make sure to visit more than once.
  • Ask lots of questions and make sure you see all vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract – which gives lots of information about their parents, breed, health, diet, the puppy’s experiences and more.
  • If you have any doubts or feel pressured to buy, as hard as it may be, walk away and report it.

Daniel said:

“Both Karen-Jean and Colin had really tough starts in life. Sadly not every smuggled puppy is as lucky as they are to be rescued and find a happy home. Many suffer life-threatening health conditions, and some don’t survive, leaving people helpless and heartbroken – as well as out of pocket.  

“It’s so easy to buy a dog online nowadays but not every seller can be trusted. By advising dog lovers on what to watch out for we hope the campaign will help prevent people being dogfished. 

“Colin is such a huge part of my life and can’t wait for Karen-Jean to settle in just as well as he did. I’m excited to watch them play together and form a bond, they’ve definitely found their forever home with me.” 


The UK’s leading dog charity polled over 2,000 puppy owners to see how many buyers might have fallen victim of illegal puppy smuggling, where puppies are brought into the UK from central and eastern European countries to sell on for vast profits. Many described how sellers falsified paperwork, offered discounts for a quick sale or lied about the age and breed of the dog. 

  • One in eight puppy buyers suspect they were lied to by the seller of their puppy, rising to over a fifth (21%) among those who bought via online adverts.
  • Over half (55%) of puppy buyers think puppy smuggling is a big issue here in the UK
  • Over half (51%) of puppy buyers were not allowed to see the puppy more than once while over two fifths (43%) were not allowed to see the puppy with their mum – two signs that all might not be what it seems.
  • A worrying number of buyers who were not allowed to see the puppy at the seller’s home (19%) also revealed they were asked to collect their puppy in a carpark or layby – something that no breeder with care for the welfare of the puppies would do.
  • Over a quarter (26%) said they had concerns, related to health or behaviour, about their puppy within just a few weeks of buying them.
  • Over a quarter (26%) said they would not know they need to speak to their local Trading Standards if they suspected their puppy was smuggled

Horrific conditions and unnecessary suffering

Worse still some reported terrible conditions where their puppies were “locked in a small cage away from mum”, were so sick they “very nearly died”, or were “scared of their own shadow and very wary of humans”. Overall, one in six puppy buyers polled (15%) said within their first year their puppy had developed significant health or behaviour problems, such as diarrhoea and anxiety, causing terrible suffering for their beloved pet whilst costing them on average almost £500 in additional vet bills. Some of those people even said their puppy had either died or had to be put to sleep, due to the severity of their condition. 

Over 201,300 dogs were advertised online in 2019 on four of the UK’s biggest classified websites.(2)

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at Dogs Trust, said:

“It’s fantastic to have Daniel’s support on our campaign warning people ‘Don’t be dogfished’. We want to help stop people being duped into buying puppies that have been illegally imported into the country by devious dealers. People think they are getting a healthy, happy puppy but behind the curtain lurks the dark depths of the puppy smuggling trade.

“This is why we are touring the country in a van like those used by puppy smugglers to educate the public on the shocking realities of the puppy smuggling trade and advising them how they can take action to avoid being ‘dogfished’. If it seems too good to be true, as hard as it is, walk away and report it.”

The Don’t Be Dogfished campaign kicks-off this week with a tour of the country in a fake puppy smuggling van. The van has been specially adapted by dirt artist Ruddy Muddy to highlight how easy it can be to be duped by a seller and the dreadful conditions many dogs are forced to travel in. 

For more information about the Don’t Be Dogfished campaign and advice about how to avoid being misled when buying a puppy online, search ‘Dogfished’ or visit

1. The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,007 people in the UK 18+ who have bought a dog as a puppy including a minimum of 1000 who have bought a puppy wither online or through a private sale. The study was carried out between 12.11.2019-18.11.2019. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
2. Data supplied by Tech4Pets. In 2019 there were 96,617 adverts for dogs on Gumtree, 2,743 on Preloved, 1,052 on Dragon Driving and 100,898 on Pets4Homes.