THE British Veterinary Association (BVA), Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) and RSPCA are encouraging anyone thinking of buying a puppy to always use The Puppy Contract; a free, one-stop guide developed and supported by leading UK animal welfare charities and professional bodies.

This comes after new statistics from BVA (the national representative body for the veterinary profession in the UK) 'Voice of the Veterinary Profession' survey show that most of the puppy problems vets saw last year as a result of poor purchasing decisions. Almost one-third of vets (32%) noted seeing puppies with congenital and conformation problems, such as trouble breathing due to flat faces, and more than one in five (22%) saw dogs that were not suited to their environment, which often led to behavioural issues.

BVA Junior Vice President and AWF Trustee Daniella Dos Santos said: “The vast majority of vets agree that using The Puppy Contract benefits and informs prospective owners. Vets frequently see puppies bred in poor conditions or bought without a proper understanding of their welfare needs, leading to health or behavioural issues.

“We’d encourage anyone thinking of getting a new puppy to speak to their local veterinary practice for advice on the right dog for them and use The Puppy Contract to ensure they are buying a healthy, happy and well-socialised puppy."

The Puppy Contract gives prospective puppy owners all the information they need at their fingertips, including all the right questions to ask the breeder about important aspects of the puppy’s care, such as socialisation, vaccination, microchipping and health tests.

Hannah Stenton, a 27-year-old customer experiences manager from Malton, North Yorkshire, had used the Puppy Contract to find Whippet pup, Alfie.

"I have grown up with dogs, so I was a little unsure about using The Puppy Contract at first,” Hannah said. “I thought to myself, why on earth would I need that? However, I decided to visit The Puppy Contract website to find out more, and I must say it proved to be really helpful even before I looked at the contract itself.

“The section titled ‘10 steps to buying a puppy’ contains valuable information for both first-time buyers and experienced dog owners. There are lots of great questions to ask the breeder and things to consider when going to meet your puppy for the first time. Some of these were questions that I would never have thought to ask, even though my family has owned several dogs before – such as those around vaccinations and microchipping.”

Some of these questions include: Did you breed the puppies? Where are the puppies kept? Have you started to house train and socialise the puppy? Were both the puppy’s parents screened for inherited diseases that can be tested in that breed?

RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Hens said: "At a time when buying a happy, health puppy from a responsible breeder has never been more difficult, it's crucial that all buyers - whether first time buyers or experienced dog owners - arm themselves with the right questions to ask.

"A large number of the puppies bought and sold every year sadly originate from irresponsible breeders here in the UK or abroad. While the RSPCA is working tirelessly to tackle those breeders and sellers who trade in puppies in order to make a quick buck and with no regard for their health and welfare, we'd also urge the public to play a role in stamping out this unscrupulous trade."

The Puppy Contract is a free, downloadable tool-kit developed by AWF and the RSPCA and is supported by leading UK animal welfare charities and professional bodies. For more information and to download the Puppy Contract, see: