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UK government warns against dodgy pet dealers with Catfish-inspired ads

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By Imogen Watson | Senior reporter

March 2, 2020 | 4 min read

To guide budding pet owners on the correct way to shop for animals, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has got 23red to develop a mini-documentary to raise awareness of bad practices.

Who's the person behind the pet?

Who's the person behind the pet?

A play on MTV's Catfish TV series, which exposes people pretending to be someone else on social media, the campaign 'Petfished' works in a similar way to show that animals sold online might not be what is advertised.

Given the serious harm, this bad practice can inflict, the campaign stresses the importance of conducting prior research before purchasing a pet. It outlines 'red flags' that buyers should look for when assessing sellers, in the hope, it will increase the number of people who report suspected illegitimate suppliers to local authorities.

The film presents two real stories of pet owners who have been 'petfished' questioned by the journalist, Leah Green.

Each party goes into their traumatic experiences of being scammed by pet sellers that they found locally from seemingly safe family homes. However, shortly afterwards both the new pets became seriously ill, with one pet being so sick that he had to be put down within a week.

The campaign budget is split between PR, social and paid search and is aimed at those considering a pet.

On the launch of the campaign, Charlotte Armitage, deputy head of campaigns for Environment, Water and Welfare at Defra said: “This new campaign aims to help prospective pet buyers make the best possible choices before welcoming a new dog or cat into their home.

"We’re seeking to highlight the importance of researching who you are buying or adopting a pet from, to avoid being ‘Petfished’. The campaign encourages everyone to read our tips on how to spot warning signs that an animal has been raised in low welfare conditions by searching ‘Get your pet safely’.”

Adding to this, Wendy Manuel, business director at 23red, said: “Sadly, research has shown that one in five vets have reported an animal seller to authorities after treating an illness likely caused by poor breeding conditions. This is a disturbing sign that low-welfare breeders are operating on a much larger scale. We hope this campaign empowers the public to check #Who’sBehindThePet before parting with their money.”

Department of the Environment NI: Petfished by 23red

By Department of the Environment NI

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