The Scottish Government has launched a campaign highlighting the pitfalls of buying illegally bred puppies.

Buy a Puppy Safely campaign will focus on raising awareness of the tactics used by illegal breeders to deceive buyers.

Research shows that Scots are more likely to buy an illegally-bred puppy than they might think, with only 24% of Scots buying from an approved breeder and 1 in 4 considering using an online or website to buy a puppy.

Most illegally bred puppies are sold online through social media or small ad sites, and distressingly 1 in 4 puppies bought online die before their fifth birthday and 1 in 3 get sick or die in the first year.

The Buy a Puppy Safely campaign was launched by the Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environmental, Mairi Gougeon in Edinburgh, as the Scottish Government calls on the public to learn about the warning signs of an illegally- bred puppy. 

Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon said: “Illegal puppy farming only leads to misery- many suffer from congenital health problems or behavioural problems, causing distress to owners and leading to expensive vet bills that can cost thousands of pounds. 

“So, we’re working with animal welfare charities to raise awareness of the real consequences of buying illegally and highlighting how to spot the warning signs of an illegal dealer. 

“I know that a lot of people will be considering buying a puppy at this time of year, so my message to them is to do your homework first. The most important thing is to see the puppy with its mother, and to get the correct paperwork. If there’s no mum and no paperwork, then walk away and report your concerns to the Scottish SPCA helpline.”

Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: "The launch of the Buy a Puppy Safely campaign is a welcome step forward in the fight against puppy farming, which is having a devastating effect on animal welfare in Scotland.

"Over the past year we have also been raising public awareness of the barbaric puppy trade in Scotland through our collaborative #SayNoToPuppyDealers campaign, and we are proud to support the Scottish Government on the launch of Buy a Puppy Safely.

"It is our hope that this will make it easier for members of the public looking to buy a puppy to avoid falling victim of this cruel trade."

The trade of puppies in Scotland online is estimated to worth £13million per year but shockingly a large proportion of these are believed to be illegally bred puppies including popular breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, Cockapoos and Miniature Dachshunds. 

Illegal puppy dealers go to great lengths to deceive buyers from renting fake houses to sell the puppies from, to producing counterfeit paperwork and pretending the puppies’ mother is at the vet or out for a walk. One of the first avenues used by illegal puppy farmers to trick buyers is through online advertising as it’s the most common place for prospective buyers to begin their search. 

To help Scots avoid the heartache, misery and financial responsibilities that come with illegal puppy farming, the Scottish Government has launched a new website where buyers can find out how to spot an illegal bred puppy, both online and in person when meeting the puppy.