New regulations now mean any dog breeder producing three or more puppy litters a year must apply for a licence through their local council and prove they meet basic standards of animal welfare.  The laws also mean puppies and kittens under eight weeks of age cannot be sold to shops and dealers.

Crucially though, the new laws have strict requirements for selling puppies online. Anyone who breeds more than three litters a year must show their licence number online to legally sell their puppies. The regulations also require that anyone selling puppies for profit must be licensed, requiring a detailed approval process.

Dogs Trust Veterinary Director, Paula Boyden, said the advertising regulations are a welcome step to avoiding animal cruelty.

‘We are particularly pleased that it will be illegal to sell a puppy below the age of 8 weeks and that there will be tighter licensing rules which will require sellers of pets to display their licence when advertising,’ she said. ‘We also applaud the move towards a risk based single licensing system which will incorporate those breeders that have gained UKAS approval rather than exempting them.

Battersea Dogs Home says online pet sales have become a massive industry has taken in over 280 dogs that were originally bought online.

“Relentless breeding of dogs in dirty, squalid conditions takes place in neighbourhoods up and down the UK,” said Battersea’s Deputy Chief Executive Peter Laurie. “Battersea and other rescue centres are often the ones left to pick up the pieces when breeding bitches are deemed no longer useful and are dumped on the streets. We hope today’s regulations will help to clamp down on the cruel practice of forcing these dogs to live in horrible conditions while giving birth to litter after litter.”

An 11-month-old Jack Russell Terrier called was bought via an online advert. When the buyer went to pick up her new puppy, she found the address she’d been given was for a shop front.

The seller came out with the puppy who showed visible signs of malnourishment and illness. Despite the new owner’s best efforts the anxiety shown by the dog meant it had to be taken in at Battersea.

“When you’re buying online, it can be impossible to pick out the genuine seller from a backstreet breeder or someone who’s acting as a front for a puppy farmer,” said Peter Laurie. “Many of the dogs bought online that then come into Battersea have been given up because their owners discover they have unexpected behavioural or medical issues they can’t cope with. We urge people thinking of getting a new pet to visit a rescue centre first. Here at Battersea, we complete in-depth behavioural and medical assessments on every dog that comes through our doors, so people know what they’re getting when they take their new pet home.”