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The Puppy Contract was launched in 2012 to help prospective buyers navigate the steps leading up to the purchase of a new puppy. It includes a ten-step guide which considers things like which type of dog is most suited to a buyer’s situation and specific needs, and the questions to ask a breeder about socialisation, vaccination, microchipping and health tests.
The latest BVA Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey shows that while awareness of The Puppy Contract among companion animal vets has almost doubled since 2015 (from 29% to 56%), it is thought that no more than 2.5% of clients are actually using it.
Nevertheless, 85% of vets said using The Puppy Contract benefits and informs owners, and 20% recommend it to clients at least sometimes.
Half of the vets who were aware of The Puppy Contract said that pet owners did not come to them for advice on buying a puppy. That's a missed opportunity, both to start building a relationship with the prospective client at the earliest opportunity and to recommend the contract and thereby have a positive impact on animal welfare.
As regards the latter, it is worth noting some other BVA stats, notably that 10% of vets said they commonly saw dogs last year with health issues linked to where they were bought from, nearly a third noted brachycephalic issues or other congenital and conformation problems stemming from poor purchasing decisions and 22% saw dogs not suited to their environment.
BVA Junior Vice President and AWF Trustee Daniella Dos Santos said: "As vets, we see first-hand the tragic consequences resulting from puppies bought without proper research into breed suitability and welfare needs, the conditions they have been bred in, or vaccination and microchipping records. As a result, many of these puppies often present with disease, welfare issues and behavioural problems, leading to heartache and financial costs for the new owners.
"It’s extremely encouraging to see that more than half of companion animal vets are now aware of The Puppy Contract and recognise its immense benefits. But with many pet owners still not aware that their vet can be an invaluable first stop for advice on the right pet for them, it’s important that we promote pre-purchase consultations to ensure prospective owners make an informed choice and get a healthy, happy and well-socialised pet from a responsible breeder."
AWF Chair of Trustees Chris Laurence said: "We believe that every dog should be born with the best possible chance of living a healthy and happy life, which is why we created The Puppy Contract as a free tool to empower puppy buyers to make an informed decision when buying a puppy. As trusted experts, vets are in a unique position to use their influence to encourage clients to use The Puppy Contract, whether they are breeding dogs or looking for a new best friend to join the family."
For more information and to download the Puppy Contract, see: https://puppycontract.org.uk/
You can download and display AWF’s Puppy Contract poster in your practice: www.animalwelfarefoundation.org.uk/puppy-contract.
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