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The government, along with many animal welfare charities, have warned prospective pet buyers to be aware of 'petfishing' scams through which animals that are poorly bred or looked after are sold as if they've been raised in a caring and happy home.
With links to illegal puppy farms and even organised crime gangs, the practice has become even more concerning thanks to the huge leap in numbers of people looking for 'lockdown puppies' and other pets while everyone is cooped up at home thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
Because of the surge in demands for pets, research by Dogs Trust revealed almost a third of people would 'turn a blind eye' to puppy smuggling if it meant they got the dog they wanted.
One unlucky owner, Jordan, bought 11-week-old Luna - a Bernese mountain dog - on Gumtree after only seeing her once and never seeing her with her mother.
He purchased her as a present for his wife and daughter, paying £950 for the dog after visiting the seller's house.
However, things quickly turned ugly when the dog immediately became sick and had to go to the vet. The vet confirmed that Luna had parvovirus and the most humane course of action would be to put her down.
As well as the emotional trauma inflicted, Jordan also had to pay £500 for the procedure. Now, he wants to raise awareness about safely buying healthy dogs from reputable sellers.
He explained: "I still remember the look on my little girl's face when she first clapped eyes on our beautiful 11-week-old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy.
"Luna was a present for my wife Kelly's 30th birthday - but, really, she was a gift for us all, including my one-year-old daughter Aviana. I still remember her smile as she threw her arms around this fluffy addition to our young family."
"Buying a dog advertised online didn't strike me as unusual - after all, we buy everything online these days. I would also be first to admit that I didn't do enough due diligence on buying a puppy and this particular seller beforehand, something I would later regret.
"I knew something wasn't right the minute I got Luna home. She wasn't eating and seemed very quiet. I put this down to her being in a new environment and away from her mum, who I hadn't seen, for the first time.
"But then things took a turn for the worse. She began throwing up all over the house, she had diarrhoea and was in a terrible way.
"The seller had given me an official-looking card, confirming Luna's clean bill of health, so we were totally blindsided.
"After rushing her to a vet, we were told she had parvovirus, a condition common in dogs that have been illegally imported from central and eastern European countries, as well as a twisted stomach and a very strong heart murmur which was later confirmed to be congenital heart disease.
"The next day, we were advised the kindest thing we could do was to put her to sleep. As quickly as we had fallen in love with her and started making plans for adventures together she was snatched away from us.
"It was only in the aftermath that it dawned on me - I had been dogfished."
After contacting the seller, it became clear they weren't exactly who they'd claimed to be.
He continued: "The fact the seller showed no remorse when I contacted her to tell her what happened, confirmed it for me.
"When she paid back a small amount of the £950 I had originally paid for Luna, I noticed the name on the seller's bank details differed from the name she had been using in person.
"Soon after, she cut off contact and that was that. We considered taking legal action, but this would have left us in a difficult financial position, when we had already racked up £500 on vet bills, and didn't go to the police as we feared how difficult it would be hard for them to be able to prove she was ill before we bought her.
"We just wanted to put this horrendous experience behind us, as a family, and try to move on."
So, to avoid a situation like this one, it's really important that you check the credentials of anyone you're planning to buy a dog from - or take in a rescue dog instead of buying a puppy.
Always ask to see the paperwork, make sure you visit the pup when it is with its mother, ask as many questions as you can, and - if you're worried about anything - report the seller to the RSPCA, the police, or Trading Standards.
A statement from Dogs Trust reads: "People think they are getting a healthy, happy puppy but behind the curtain lurks the dark depths of the puppy smuggling trade. Many of these poor puppies suffer significant health conditions or lifelong behavioural challenges, and sadly some don't survive, leaving their buyers helpless and heartbroken - as well as out of pocket.
"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.
"We are calling on the Government to urgently raise the minimum age for puppies to be imported into the UK to six months to help make them less desirable. We also want to see tougher penalties for smugglers, as only a handful of cases have ever led to a prosecution."
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