The pandemic has led to a lot of people buying a puppy. Puppies are often sold online, and plenty of respectable breeders make their sales this way. They may not be Kennel Club registered or have their own websites, but they are caring and honourable and do all the right things when it comes to homing their lovingly bred puppies.

Unfortunately, however, there are also dodgy dealers and wholesalers in the puppy market who are acting illegally. Using online channels they try to sell:

  • Puppies that are a different breed or pedigree from what’s advertised
  • Puppies that have been stolen
  • Puppies that have been brought into the country illegally, despite whatever story a prospective owner is told

For prospective owners, it can be challenging to spot a dodgy dealer. To help, we’ve put together a 3-point checklist you might want to run through before committing to the transaction.

1  Ask to see the puppy’s microchip registration

  • If the pup has had a previous owner, ask to see the microchip registration document showing the microchip number. The seller should send the document by email if you can’t see it in person. No reputable breeder will turn down this request.
  • Breeders often wait to have a puppy microchipped once it’s had its first vaccinations at 8 weeks; and a microchip may not be registered to an owner until the puppy reaches that age, or until after completion of the sale. Even so, make sure you see proof that registration has taken place before you part with any money. Be suspicious if you’re told this can’t be done for any reason.
  • Before you settle the final bill for your puppy, it’s worth checking the microchip number using one of the microchip database websites (eg, or asking your vet to check that the microchip number matches what you’ve been told.

2  Ask to see the puppy’s vaccination card

  • Ask to see the puppy’s vaccination card. The seller should send the document by email if you can’t see it in person. No reputable breeder will turn down this request.
  • Make sure it’s an official card that shows the name of the vet who carried out the vaccinations and any other treatments, worming and so on.
  • Consider calling the vet named on the record card to check they really did the work.

3  Pay in a way that lets you reclaim your money

  • Make sure you pay in a way that allows you to claim your money back, in case you become suspicious about the sale and change your mind. Be especially cautious if the seller asks you to pay by money transfer (eg Western Union) as there’s no reclaim route.
  • Reputable breeders generally don’t ask for the full amount upfront; instead you’ll pay a deposit, followed by the balance once the final vet check has taken place.

Finally — report dodgy dealers to Trading Standards

If you’re suspicious about a puppy sale, or you’re sold a puppy without any documentation to back up what the seller tells you, contact Trading Standards, who have powers to deal with unscrupulous dealers.