Would you know if you were being Petfished? Pets4Homes partners with Defra to tell you what you need
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Would you know if you were being Petfished? Pets4Homes partners with Defra to tell you what you need

Most people know what “catfishing” is; building a fake online persona to trick someone into a relationship under false pretences. But would you know if you were being Petfished? Maybe not.

To “Petfish” is a sales tactic used by unscrupulous pet breeders and sellers to trick unsuspecting animal lovers into the purchase of a pet (usually a kitten or puppy) under false pretences. The puppy or kitten in question may have been mistreated, inappropriately bred or poorly cared for, or otherwise bred simply for profit with little to no mind paid to the welfare and best interests of the animals themselves.

No animal lover would like to think they’d bought a pet from a seller like this and so, contributed to such cruel and unscrupulous behaviour; but breeders and sellers that Petfish buyers often run very slick and convincing operations, and work hard to make everything seem above board to the uninitiated.

So, would you know if you were being Petfished, why is it important to be able to spot a deceitful seller, and what sort of problems can arise if you buy a pet from an unscrupulous seller? Well, Pets4Homes has partnered with Defra on their “Petfished” campaign to raise public awareness and highlight the issues, so read on to find out all of this and more.

What does it mean to be “Petfished?”

People who “Petfish” may target unsuspecting pet buyers and try to deceive them about what they’re buying, the circumstances surrounding the pet and its sale or purchase, or otherwise set out with the sole or main goal of making a profit at any cost, regardless of how this impacts either the buyer or the pet in question.

Sellers who Petfish prospective buyers might lie about the pet’s living situation – such as showing a litter of puppies within a family home when in fact the pups were born and kept on a puppy farm and only moved to the home for viewings – or even about the pet itself, in terms of its bloodline, quality, health, or other key traits.

Their sales techniques will often be pushy or questionable as well, such as trying to pass off puppies that are ineligible for pedigree registration as being of superior quality or rare and desirable colours than pedigrees when the opposite is the case, or by trying to push buyers into committing to a purchase or paying a deposit before even viewing a litter.

Why would a breeder or seller use Petfishing tactics?

Petfishing tactics are often used to turn a profit, and this is the key goal of the whole operation. Having a high, fast turnover of pet stock and making the maximum amount of profit for the minimal outlay of funds, regardless of the impact that this has on either the pet or its buyer, is the key for sellers who Petfish buyers.

Responsibly breeding any animal – from kittens to puppies or anything else – can be expensive, and time consuming. Petfishing sellers don’t breed with animal welfare in mind, they breed and sell animals simply for the money, and they’ll go to extreme measures to make that money at any cost to the animals and prospective buyers.

Why is it a problem if you buy a pet from someone like this?

People using Petfishing tactics to sell pets that aren’t what they seem and that might be in poor health or otherwise at a disadvantage is obviously a problem for any responsible animal lover – but doesn’t this mean that buying a pet from someone like this actually means rescuing the pet, and ensuring that they have a good life in the future?

Well, no. Buying from an unscrupulous seller simple increases demand for their services and lines their pockets; doing what you think is the right thing for one pet only perpetuates the cycle, and ensures that ever-more pets will be bred and sold in the same way.

Buying a pet from a seller using Petfishing tactics can also come with problems pertaining to the pet you’ve bought too, which can be costly, distressing, and challenging to resolve.

These might include health and conformation problems that will have a lifelong impact on the pet’s quality of life and that may even shorten their lifespan, and may well mean behavioural problems too.

Who’s the person behind the pet?

Defra’s Petfished campaign, in partnership with Pets4Homes, urges prospective puppy and kitten buyers to stop and think before committing to a purchase, by asking themselves “who’s the person behind the pet?”

The Petfished campaign is designed to help YOU and other would-be puppy and kitten buyers to identify the signs of deceitful sellers, and avoid purchasing animals from them.

Before you commit to a purchase or pay a deposit on a puppy or kitten, stop and think; if you’re being pushed into making a decision, asked for payment before seeing a litter, or otherwise have any concerns about the pets you’re viewing or the seller’s approach, take a step back.

Lucy’s Law, which comes into force on 6th April 2020 will serve to ban the third-party sale of kittens and puppies in England; this means that anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten will have to source directly from the breeder or from one of the nation’s many animal rehoming centres.

So, how would you know if a seller was not what they seemed, or if they were trying to Petfish you?

Here are the signs to look out for.

How to spot and avoid Petfishing tactics

  • Do plenty of research before you even visit a litter; find out more about the breeder, their background, and how they operate before you start phoning around to arrange viewings.
  • For puppies, look for the extra layer of reassurance that comes from choosing a pup from a breeder that is enrolled in the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme or is a licensed commercial breeder
  • Take plenty of time when you do phone up to arrange a viewing to find out more. Also, bear in mind that a responsible breeder will probably want to know as much about you as a prospective buyer as you will about them!
  • Unscrupulous sellers are not as uncommon and few and far between as you might think; be objective, and never simply assume that a seller is telling you the truth because they sound like nice people!
  • Always buy a puppy or kitten directly from the breeder or buy/adopt from a reputable rehoming centre. You can start by checking if they are a member of the Association of Dogs and Cats Home.
  • Beware of sellers that try to push you into purchasing as soon as you view a litter, or into making a deposit before you even get there; they may do this by making totally false claims about demand, scarcity and the desirability of their puppies or kittens, implying that you will miss out if you don’t make a decision on the spot.
  • Most breeders specialise in breeding cats or dogs of just one breed, or occasionally, two; be very wary of those offering multiple breeds for sale, and be extra vigilant if a breeder offers puppies or kittens of two breeds rather than just one.

Read this article on how to avoid buying a puppy farmed puppy for more tips.

Check out this comprehensive list of red flags for potential puppy and kitten buyers to ensure you don’t inadvertently buy a pet from a deceitful seller.

What to do if you think you’re dealing with Petfishing tactics

  • If you speak to a breeder or seller of puppies or kittens or go and view a litter and think they’re trying to Petfish you, what should you do?
  • Contact the RSPCA on their Cruelty Hotline by calling 0300 1234 999.
  • Report any questionable-seeming adverts to the Pet Advertising Advisory Group.

Pets4Homes works hard to ensure that people who advertise puppies and kittens for sale here are who they say they are, and that they breed with the welfare of their charges in mind.

We take any accusations of sellers using Petfishing tactics or unscrupulous or illegal breeding and selling practices very seriously, and investigate each of them individually, escalating matters to the relevant authorities when appropriate.

If you spot an advert here on Pets4Homes that raises red flags or gives you cause for concern, or visit a litter that was advertised here and think that things are not all that they seem, please use the “report this advert” link embedded within every advert showcased here to let us know.

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