Saturday 24 March 2018

Peter Breen: I've seen pets bought online die too many times, take caution when you're looking for a puppy

Peter Breen

The people of Dublin are being sold a pup. Literally.

Late last month, the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) issued a press release appealing for people to cease purchasing animals as pets online.

To explain the reasons behind the strong-worded statement, which has subsequently drawn some debate across the airwaves, and to understand the situation, the DSPCA asks you to take the practice back to the core of what the society does. Prevent acts of cruelty to all animals.

Each week the DSPCA takes several calls from concerned members of the public who have purchased pets which are usually, but not exclusively, dogs. Although there are some reputable and conscientious breeders in Ireland, the stories we hear from the callers share the same recurring themes.

Here’s an illustration.

A family decides to buy a pet. They see an ad online for a particular breed of dog who looks content and healthy and they telephone the seller, who is initially warm and friendly. They agree to meet in a particular part of the country.

For various reasons, geographical mainly, the seller will then insist that they meet to conclude the sale in a public location like a shopping centre car park or another prominent landmark rather than from the home. At this point the buyer is none the wiser. The buyer meets the online seller and soon it emerges that the puppy doesn’t look well and is acting unusual.

A helpless and hopeless stare from the poor animal leads to guilt in the buyer who feels compelled to conclude the deal, fearing that it will be in a worse condition if it returns to its ‘home’.

A day passes and then another. Looking disorientated and distressed, the buyer takes the puppy to the vet where worm or flea infestations are located. That’s in the best case scenario. In the more common and worst case scenarios, the puppy has a terminal condition like parvovirus (or ‘parvo’ as it is more commonly known)  or is displaying clear severe genetic deformities as a result of over-breeding and in-breeding.

By the time the DSPCA receives the call, the animal has usually passed away or is in such a state of pain and suffering that euthanasia is the only fair means to end the distress. The family are heartbroken and financially impacted, sometime to the tune of several hundred euro. This can have a devastating traumatic impact on the children who may have waited several years for their puppy.

The above example seems generic, but sadly it is recurring. This was a real event which occurred last week.

When you buy an animal online from an unscrupulous dealer, you don’t know what the conditions were for the pet. A puppy farm can house hundreds of dogs in absolutely dire and gruesome conditions, where there is little shelter, no sanitation and deplorable living conditions. The pits, which our inspectors have found over the years, are havens for eye and ear infections, mange, overgrown nails and are covered in faeces.

Online sites are a medium for this sickening trade. They’re hard to police, but the donations and support which we get from the public helps our inspectors and our team of vets to answer the calls of those animals most affected by this trade.

To that end the DSPCA would plead with all those intending to buy online to consider the following check list:

*If you would like to adopt a pet, try contacting the DSPCA

*If you have your heart set on a particular breed, always see the dog engaging with its mother and father of possible in a natural ‘home’ environment

*Always check that the mother is healthy

*Always request a vaccination history, signed and stamped proof by a veterinarian that the animal has been checked and cleared and that the animal is playful and healthy

*NEVER meet sellers at a public landmark!

*If you are concerned about a possible welfare case then contact the DSPCA - details are on

The message from the DSPCA is simple. Don’t buy animals online. We have many breeds of animals of all shapes and sizes - and age profiles - who are crying out for a loving home here in our shelter in Rathfarnham. To foster or adopt an animal visit

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News