After seeing the advert for Luna on Gumtree, I arranged to meet the seller at her house.
Buying a dog advertised online didn’t strike me as unusual, especially as we tend to buy everything via the web these days. Looking back, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t do enough due diligence on buying a puppy and this particular seller beforehand – it’s something I’ve regretted ever since.I travelled over an hour to the seller’s house in Worcestershire and everything seemed normal. It didn’t occur to me that it was strange there were no other dogs around or that I was only allowed in the kitchen. She showed me a picture on her phone of the puppy I was buying, supposedly with its parents, and I took one look at the dog and fell in love with her.
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Everything seemed legit and when I saw Luna she appeared healthy, so I agreed to buy her there and then and took her home to meet my family.
The first few hours with her were wonderful. Seeing our puppy getting to know her new home, exploring the garden and bonding with us was just so lovely. My daughter was over the moon.
However, just two days later our lives turned into a nightmare.
I knew something wasn’t right the minute I got Luna home. She wasn’t eating and seemed very quiet. Initially, I put this down to her being in a new environment and away from her mum, who I hadn’t physically seen, for the first time.
But then things took a turn for the worse. Luna began throwing up all over the house, she had diarrhoea and was in a terrible way.
As the seller had given me an official-looking card, confirming Luna’s clean bill of health, it left us feeling totally blindsided.After rushing Luna to a vet, we were told she had parvovirus, a condition common in dogs that have been illegally imported from central and eastern European countries. On top of that, she had a twisted stomach and a very strong heart murmur, which was later confirmed to be congenital heart disease.
When I contacted the seller to tell her what had happened she showed no remorse. She barely even acknowledged what I was telling her – that Luna had parvovirus and was in a critical condition – the least I had expected would have been for her to sound like she cared.
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The next day, we were advised that the kindest thing we could do was to put Luna to sleep. As quickly as we had fallen in love with her and started making plans for our adventures together she was snatched away from us. I’d even bought a new car given the size she should have grown up to. It was all so utterly heartbreaking.After sharing my story with the local paper, the Dogs Trust charity got in touch to tell me they were concerned I may have fallen victim to what they call ‘dogfishing’, the cruel puppy smuggling trade, which sees thousands of dogs illegally imported in squalid and cramped conditions to sell on for profit.
This includes heavily pregnant bitches, carrying litters to be advertised online and sold to line the pockets of the criminal gangs behind it.
French Bulldogs and Dachshunds are often the breeds which are most likely to be rescued and rehomed through the charity’s Puppy Pilot scheme – which has seen the charity support more than 1,000 smuggled puppies since 2015 – and they also said more and more bigger breeds are now being seized, including Bernese Mountain Dogs, like Luna.
Eventually I got the seller to pay back a small amount of the £950 I had originally paid for Luna and that’s when I noticed the name on her bank details differed from the name she had been using in person.
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Soon after, she cut off contact and that was that. We considered taking legal action, but this would have left us in a difficult financial position, when we had already racked up £500 on vet bills.
We didn’t go to the police either, as we knew how difficult it would be to prove Luna was ill before we bought her. Her death left us devastated and feeling completely helpless.
It wasn’t even about the money. The emotional toll on our family was enormous and six months on, we are still grieving for Luna.
We only had her for a matter of days but she left a big hole in our lives. For now, I can’t even think about getting another dog and risk going through it all again – we certainly would never buy online again. The only saving grace is that Aviana is so young and hopefully won’t remember this feeling of loss.
It’s shocking that puppies are being taken from their mums far too young and smuggled into the UK to be sold on websites like Gumtree or Preloved for vast profits by criminal gangs. But no matter how awful an experience this has been for us, I have to share our tragic story to make sure no one else is ‘dogfished’ by dodgy dealers online.
For information and support when looking to buy a dog, visit the Dogs Trust here
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