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Getting a cat or dog?

Published Monday, 02 March 2020

Seven essential tips to avoid being ‘Petfished’

You may have heard of ‘Catfishing’, where a stranger uses a fictional online persona to lure someone into a relationship. But would you know if you were being ‘Petfished’?

If you’re getting a new cat or dog, it’s important to be aware of deceitful sellers who mistreat animals to line their pockets. These sellers convince unsuspecting buyers that the puppy or kitten was raised in a happy home. In reality, they may have been reared in a low welfare environment.

Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affair has launched a new campaign ‘Petfished’ that gives you the essential information you need to help you avoid deceitful sellers and get your pet safely.

If you’re adopting a cat or dog:

  • research the charity or organisation you are getting your cat or dog from. A good starting point is the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes list of members.
  • ideally, adopt your cat or dog from a UK-based organisation. Dogs and cats are sometimes imported illegally and might carry diseases that could end up harming other pets. If you do buy or adopt from abroad, they should be fully vaccinated (including against rabies).

If you’re buying a cat or dog:

  • buy from a trustworthy source. For puppies, start by checking the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme, or look for a commercial dog breeder, whose licence number must be shown in any advert. For kittens, search approved breeders on The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) Breeder Scheme, listed by location or type of cat.
  • check that the puppy or kitten is over 8 weeks old. They should not be sold under this age. You can find out the rough size the cat or dog should be at 8 weeks by further researching the breed.
  • search the seller’s details online. Copy and paste information such as name, phone number and advert description into a search engine. If the same details appear in different adverts, or for different dog breeds, this is a red flag. Always ring before your visit. If there’s no phone number, that’s a red flag. On the call, ask about medical history, behaviour, and how the pet was raised.
  • only agree to meet in the puppy or kitten’s home, with the mother present. Deceitful sellers might suggest meeting elsewhere to avoid showing you the animal’s living conditions, or to avoid showing you the health of the mother.
  • use checklists with key questions. Bring the Puppy Contract to the seller if you’re buying a puppy. There is also a handy Kitten Checklist with a number of questions to the seller, if you are buying a kitten.

For more essential advice, go to