Puppy theft in the UK is at its highest ever rate at the moment, and this means that any prospective puppy buyer has a responsibility to do everything they can to ensure that a litter they might be considering is above board and legally for sale.
Knowing how to do this involves some critical thinking and being alert to warning signs that all is not as it seems; but this is not always easy and the sellers of stolen litters can be very convincing in terms of making everything seem normal.
However, when it comes to buying a pedigree puppy, the chances of a puppy being stolen are far lower if they are Kennel Club registered and have the paperwork to prove it, as there’s a paper trail in place for their ownership.
So does this mean that buying a pedigree puppy without papers mean that the chances of inadvertently buying a stolen puppy are higher? In most cases, yes. While the vast majority of unregistered litters for sale will be perfectly legal and above board, the risks are higher than for Kennel Club registered litters nonetheless.
This article will tell you what to look for in terms of registration to greatly reduce the chances of your inadvertently buying a stolen puppy.
The Kennel Club is the UK’s umbrella organisation for pedigree dog registration, and the one we correctly refer to when talking about a dog being a pedigree and a registered dog.
However, there are also a number of alternative registries, which have arisen for various reasons, and with varying degrees of plausibility. Some of these permit the registration of new and developing dog types that are not recognised by the Kennel Club; some essentially permit any dog to be registered for a fee, and are largely vanity registries.
While we’re not saying that all such registries or all such dogs within them are not legitimate, when it comes to using formal registration of a puppy as an indicator that their provenance is assured and that the seller of the litter is its legal owner, the Kennel Club is the only authority to work with.
One particular red flag to be aware of is if a litter is registered with an alternative registry when the breed in question could be Kennel Club registered; i.e., it is of a recognised breed. Again, this doesn’t always indicate a stolen dog by any means, but it does indicate that the litter or puppy in question was probably ineligible for Kennel Club registration.
The Kennel Club denies registration to dogs of breeds that they register for many reasons, and most of them pertain toe provenance or welfare, and so while as mentioned this doesn’t automatically mean a stolen litter, it can do, and is a point against the litter in general.
When you’ve confirmed with a breeder that their litter is Kennel Club registered, ask to see the proof of this. It is reasonable that a breeder will not supply the paperwork or share individual identifiers for a puppy (like their registration number) with an initial or casual enquiry, as such paperwork can be forged and so, used by a criminal to falsely claim registration of another dog; dog theft can get very complicated!
But establish from the get-go that the litter is KC registered, and if you decide you want to buy a puppy and the breeder agrees, before you pay any money out or sign a contract, get the pup’s registration details and check it with the Kennel Club online to ensure everything is above board.
Consider the purchase of the puppy you choose as the purchase of its paperwork too; which means seeing the paperwork before purchase (just as you would see the puppy before purchase) and not paying for the puppy (and paperwork) until you get it.
Even if you have seen the registration papers/been given the registration number and checked it, do not pay for or take the puppy without the paperwork itself. “Papers to follow” or the breeder telling you they’ve been sent off for amendment or they have misplaced them and will send them on are all red flags.
A person who is selling a stolen puppy or using forged or non-existent papers will disappear without trace as soon as the money is in their pocket, and you will stand very little chance of having any comeback about this further down the line.
If the Kennel Club paperwork for the puppy is definitely genuine and you are certain it applies to the specific puppy it accompanies, this is not a 100% guarantee that the puppy wasn’t stolen, as there are potentially any number of weird and wonderful ways that the average person could not even imagine that an adept thief could use to circumvent an issue like this.
That said, buying a puppy that is KC registered, once more assuming this is genuine and above board, reduces the chances that the puppy is stolen to almost zero and so offers a high degree of security and reassurance in that respect.