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Dog in a puppy farm in Australia

FOUR PAWS survey reveals Australians at-risk of falling victim to online puppy scammers, and loopholes for puppy farmers to profit from animal abuse. 

Survey finds Australian puppy scammers profiteering from animal abuse.

20.12.2022

20 November 2022 – The COVID-19 pandemic saw an unprecedented demand for puppies across Australia and a surge in online pet sales, and now with Christmas around the corner, a new suite of puppy ads is appearing online encouraging people to impulse buy a pet for the holiday season.

This surge in demand has led to abusive puppy farming practices and a shocking rise in online scammers.

The ACCC reported that in 2021, Australians lost $4.2 million dollars to puppy scams, an increase of 1000% since 2019. By buying puppies online, Australians are likely supporting the unethical puppy farming trade.

To better understand current behaviour for purchasing a puppy and where potential risks may occur, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS commissioned a survey of 3037 people from nine countries, including Australia , on puppy buying trends and experiences of dog owners who purchased puppies during the pandemic and lockdowns.

The results were highly concerning, with key findings concluding that:

key findings from the survey

  • Australia is the lowest among all nine countries surveyed to conduct research of breeder/sellers before buying, with almost 3 in 10 Australians (27%) not researching the supplier of the puppy they purchased from.
  • A majority of those who researched the breeder/seller were most likely to do so on the breeder’s website (58%), followed by social media accounts (38%), despite Meta having a ban on advertisements of animals for sale on Facebook and Instagram, both sources leaving potential buyers vulnerable to fraud.
  • 25% spent 1 hour or less researching the breeder/supplier. This is highly concerning given the risks of impulse buying, the high rate of online puppy advertising scams and the trend of puppy farmers to use online platforms such as online marketplaces and social media to advertise farmed puppies from poor welfare farms.
  • Australians spend the highest average price, by far, when purchasing a puppy – 42% paid between $1500 - $4399AUD and 13% paid $4400 - $8800 AUD, compared to only 18% of buyers in the UK who paid more than 1700 GBP for their puppy.
  • 1 in 4 Australians surveyed (26%) bought puppies who were less than 8 weeks old, with 13% of those stating their puppy was 6 weeks or younger. This is very concerning as it is illegal to purchase an animal under 8 weeks of age due to the welfare impacts on the puppy from early mother-pup separation.
  • Of the Australians surveyed, 21% reported that the puppy had health issues after purchase, with the top three issues of that 21% reported being allergies (32%) followed by behavioural problems (28%) and diarrhoea (25%).
Pandemic pups: A FOUR PAWS Survey

Pandemic pups: A FOUR PAWS Survey

In September 2022, FOUR PAWS commissioned a survey of 247 Australians on puppy buying trends during the pandemic. The survey was completed as part of a global puppy farming survey of 3,037 from nine countries.

“Many puppies advertised online come from cruel puppy farming. They are bred in poor conditions in puppy farms, with mothers forced to produce litter after litter, and the puppies taken away from their mothers far too young. By the time they are in your arms, they could be sick or go on to have behavioural problems due to lack of socialisation.”

Rebecca Linigen, National Director, FOUR PAWS Australia

“Doing the right research and asking the right questions can help Australians avoid falling victim to the cruel puppy trade. That is why FOUR PAWS Australia has launched our new campaign ‘Cute. Quick. Sick.’ to help raise much-needed awareness of the dangers of buying animals online, the tricks used by dodgy operators to deceive well-meaning people looking to bring a puppy into their home, and provide helpful tips for Australians so they can avoid the emotional and financial risks,” says Linigen.

Emma Hurst, an Animal Justice Party member of the NSW upper house, responded to the FOUR PAWS survey results. 

“Members of the public would be shocked to know that puppy farming - the intensive factory farming of dogs for the pet trade industry - remains legal in most states and territories in Australia. This is a cruel industry that has been allowed to run rampant due to Government inaction,” said Hurst.

“Nobody wants to buy a dog from a puppy farm – but right now, members of the public are being duped by dodgy operators. This was exposed in a recent NSW Parliamentary inquiry, where it was revealed that even individuals who had tried to research breeders were still accidentally purchasing from a puppy farm, and having to spend thousands on veterinary treatment for their sick new family member who probably came from squalor.

Governments around Australia need to stop sitting on their hands and take steps to ban the cruel, unethical puppy farming industry.”

Hon. Emma Hurst, MLC, Animal Justice Party Member of NSW Parliament

Some common tricks Australians should keep an eye out for include when looking at online animal advertisements include: 

  • a breeder/seller with multiple accounts on a single classified ad site, 
  • using different names or phone numbers, 
  • the same breeder/seller advertising multiple litters of puppies and of different breeds, 
  • providing little information in the ad online including no mention of the mother, or 
  • not allowing the buyer to see the mother dog and where she lives for themselves, and 
  • putting pressure on the buyer to buy the puppy right away.

A responsible breeder will also ask the buyer questions about their lifestyle to ensure the home is the right fit for the puppy.

Common tricks used to advertise puppies for sale online

While animal shelters are overflowing with abandoned ‘pandemic’ pets (animals impulse purchased during the pandemic and given up now that people have returned to work), the unwavering demand for more puppies and designer dogs ensures that puppy farms and puppy scammers are always in business. 

At FOUR PAWS we strongly advocate for animal adoption.

“Choosing to adopt an animal from a shelter or rescue group not only saves the life of that animal, but also positively contributes to the ongoing fight against animal overpopulation and homelessness. Animal shelters are filled with healthy and happy animals just waiting to find their perfect forever home,” said Linigen. 

Cute. Quick. Sick. Puppy farming, online scammers, and tips for responsible pet ownership

About the Survey

The survey was executed by the Savanta research agency throughout 2022 and was carried out in nine countries where FOUR PAWS has an office including Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Belgium. Respondents were people who had purchased a puppy between the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and September 2022. 3037 responses were collected across the nine countries.

The gender breakdown for the Australian market was 33% male and 67% female with 247 total respondents. Three in five respondents are aged 18 to 34 (60%), 35% are between 35 and 54, and 5% 55 or older.

Survey respondents lived in NSW (29%), VIC (29%), QLD (22%), SA (7%), ACT (6%), WA (5%), and TAS (2%).

Sick puppy

cute. quick. sick.

A puppy farming campaign

Visit the campaign

FOUR PAWS on Social Media

Stay up to date on this topic and on all FOUR PAWS activities on our social media channels:

Elise Burgess

Elise Burgess

Head of Communications

elise.burgess@four-paws.org

T: 02 9198 4417

M: 0423 873 382

FOUR PAWS Australia
GPO Box 2845 
SYDNEY NSW 2001

Main Phone: 1800 454 228

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.

Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.

With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.au

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