‘Petfishing’ and how can prospective pet owners avoid it

‘Petfishing’ and how can prospective pet owners avoid it

Most of us are familiar with the term catfishing; strangers prowling the internet under the guise of a false identity is something that’s become alarmingly commonplace in our society. However, an equally concerning side-branch of this fakery and deceit has now reared its head… ‘petfishing’. That’s right, fraudulent sellers are listing suspicious adverts for pets, falsely depicting the welfare of animals in their care.

According to a recent survey, 27% of UK cat and dog owners came across a seller or advert that made them suspicious whilst looking to purchase their pet, whilst less than half (43%) actually visited the seller in-person. Furthermore, 12% of pet owners confess to not having done any research before visiting their kitten or puppy for the first time. These statistics are staggering and, sadly, they prove that petfishing is an easy scam as pet owners simply don’t understand the risks associated with online pet purchasing.

This needs to change. We must understand the steps we ought to be taking as prospective pet owners and we absolutely must recognise the prevalence of petfishing; this isn’t a novelty – it’s incredibly commonplace in our society. We need only look to mainstream media for evidence of this, as some of the UK’s biggest celebrities have fallen victim to the scam. For example, Molly-Mae Hague and Tommy Fury sadly lost their puppy Mr. Chai just 6 days after bringing him home, as it turned out he had underlying, unannounced health issues. No matter your status, experience, nor location, petfishing is rife and only widespread awareness can tackle the issue.

Discussing what petfishing is and its associated risks, Heidi Maskelyne, CEO of raw dog food brand ProDog Raw, says:

‘Petfishing is a hugely concerning reality for potential pet owners. These criminals sell animals that have been raised in dangerous, unhealthy conditions, overselling their wellbeing to ultimately profit from inhumane practices. However, whilst this is taking place all over the country, it’s not something most people think will affect them… Meanwhile, a recent survey of British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) members found that almost two thirds of pet owners are unaware of the clinical and behavioural signals that their pet may be linked to low welfare breeding practices. Seemingly, the majority of pet owners are misinformed, whether that be with regards to how common petfishing is or the warning signs we ought to look out for. There was a whopping 125% increase in pet adverts posted across online marketplaces during lockdown – we’re buying pets online more than ever before and so this is a great time for people to become fully informed.

I urge every prospective pet owner to research petfishing, the seller they’re considering buying from, visit said seller on multiple occasions and familiarise themselves with the breed of dog they’re purchasing. Every breed has such distinct needs, pet owners must recognise exactly what they’re signing up for. Furthermore, they must carefully evaluate the healthcare their new pet has been provided with pre-sale. Have they had their necessary jabs? Has their diet been fulfilling their dietary requirements? You need to go into pet ownership with your eyes wide open. Don’t assume petfishing won’t happen to you – underestimating its prevalence will increase your vulnerability to the scam. Instead, do your homework and really get to know your seller, and pet, before you make a purchase.

At ProDog Raw it’s our mission to support dogs’ wellbeing from the inside out. We encourage prospective dog owners to not overlook this issue and to take every precautionary step necessary to ensure they’re buying a healthy, well-nourished pet. This includes seeking expert advice and being open to new ideas; raw dog food for example was relatively taboo in years gone by. Now, it’s widely recognised as the healthiest diet form for dogs. When it comes to  the health of your dog it’s always beneficial to consider new concepts, accept experts’ insights and follow your dog’s lead – if they’re happy, you’re doing something right.’

Meanwhile, Dr. Nick Thompson, a qualified vet, consultant to ProDog Raw and 5x nominee of Petplan Vet of the Year, has elaborated on the risks associated with petfishing and how you can avoid its harrowing consequences:

‘The first few months of a dog’s life are critical; they need to be eating well, get vet checked, and live in a healthy, supportive environment. If this doesn’t occur, highly concerning outcomes can occur. For example, the animal may develop or present severe illnesses, become emotionally distressed, struggle when interacting with other pets and humans, pass away (in more severe cases), and much more. Meanwhile, in petfishing cases new owners will likely encounter staggering vets bills and heartache – all whilst the seller inevitably disappears without a trace.

Fortunately, when viewing a pet there are key signs of malnourishment you can look out for. My advice starts here because if you can’t view the pet in person, this is already a red flag you should be avoiding. Firstly, does the puppy have notably bad breath? Are there any visible signs of hair loss? Does it look skinny? These are all signs a dog’s health isn’t being supported sufficiently. If this is the case, do not make the purchase and be sure to notify appropriate authorities.

Of course, every dog deserves to be loved and if you do choose to bring a puppy into the home which has been subject to maltreatment, there are powerful steps you can take to restore their health. For example, of my main recommendations would be to transition the puppy onto raw foods; the research-backed benefits of a raw dog food diet are astounding and the proteins they’ll subsequently be provided with will ensure every possible nutritional box is ticked. Meanwhile, it’s always important to work closely with a vet and dog behaviour expert to rebalance your pet’s health.’

Petfishing is becoming increasingly common and for pet owners, it incites devastating realities. If you’re considering buying a dog, do your research and never assume you’re exempt.

To find out more about ProDog Raw visit www.prodograw.com


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