Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is urging would-be pet owners to do their research as they may unknowingly be supporting backstreet breeders.

Last year a quarter of the dogs given in to Battersea were originally from online or newspaper adverts, with many owners knowing little or nothing about the dog they were buying.

In 2014, 1,364 dogs brought into the rescue centre had been bought from online or newspaper adverts, Facebook, breeders, or friends or relatives.

Some 279 of those dogs had originally been bought from well-known online classifieds, 42 from newspapers and 48 from a stranger – sometimes on the spur of the moment in a pub or a car park.

Breeding dogs is often seen as a quick money-making scheme and the buyer can be completely unaware of where his or her puppy has come from. Anyone buying a dog from an online advert, poster or from a friend of a friend can be affected.

Rob Young, Battersea’s head of dog rehoming, said: “We work hard to make people aware the internet isn’t the place to buy a dog.

“People can sometimes act on impulse when buying a dog, without ever seeing the animal, or thinking through they are taking on responsibility for a living creature. It’s worrying pets are so easily bought without the new owner knowing exactly what they’re getting.

“Battersea advises when getting a dog you should always ask to see the mother so you can tell what type of home the puppy has come from – and always make sure the puppy is more than eight weeks old. Ask questions – it’s your right as a consumer.”

The charity claims dogs used for backstreet breeding are forced to lead a miserable life. They are kept in dirty, squalid conditions and are used to produce litter after litter, with no thought for their health.

Battersea would urge anyone thinking of getting a dog to adopt from a rescue centre or reputable breeder.

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