How much is that puppy on my news feed? Danielle White investigates the latest social media crazes causing a rise in innocent dogs dumped in the UK

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  • Surge in the number of designer dogs rescued linked to new Instagram dog trends
  • One in five pups bought online and on social media die before they hit six months old
  • Owner of Instagram dog star says social media can help dogs despite growing risks

Puppies across the UK are now facing huge threats of abandonment as the latest online crazes fuel impulse buys. Photo credit: Pixabay

The cruel consequences of the UK’s obsession with dogs on social media have been exposed, as thousands of puppies now face huge risks of being dumped by owners.

The rise of puppies on social networks has led to a huge outcry for ‘designer dogs’ in the last few years, as videos and pictures of adorable pups win the hearts of the public.

Animal welfare charity the RSPCA linked the latest Instagram dog trends to a surge in demand for fashionable cross-breeds, which are making them a popular first choice amongst users.

Rachel Oates, owner of Instagram-famous Winny the Corgi witnessed this first-hand, when the success of her dog’s account was connect to soaring Pembroke Welsh Corgis sales.

The top five social media dogs right now

1. Boo the Pomeranian 2. Maru the Shiba Inu 3. Doug the Pug 4. Marnie the Shih Tzu 5. Tuna the Chiweenie
1. Boo the Pomeranian
With over 17m likes on Facebook, Boo has become of the most recognisable dogs on the Internet.

‘When The Kennel Club suggested Winny might have something to do with the rise of popularity of Corgis in the UK I was so incredibly proud of him.’

‘In the UK where Corgis originated they dipped so low as to be classed endangered for a short time.’

But as these new fads raise the demand for certain breeds, dog rescue organisations are seeing a massive increase in the number of trendy pups being abandoned by owners.

The RSPCA reported a shocking 11-fold rise in bichon frise-cross rescues since 2012, and saw the amount of unwanted pug-crosses more than double between just 2014 and 2015.

And last year, it rescued a number of pugs and French bulldogs that had been left for dead by their previous owners.

Campaigners now believe the growing rates of unwanted designer dogs is linked to more owners impulse buying after becoming smitten with pups appearing on their news feed.

Last year, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi was listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the Kennel Club, after suffering a a 16 percent drop since 2013. Photo credit: Daniel Stockman

A new report by leading veterinary charity PDSA, found that over five million pet owners are doing no research before choosing a new pet.

Now thousands of innocent pups are being given up after owners realise they are unable to give the dog the lifelong care and attention it needs.

Despite her dog’s social media success, Rachel now also warns of the dangers posed by new puppy crazes.

‘Of course you would never want a breed to get popular because there is always a risk of puppy farming.

‘Or people buying puppies without doing the proper research into the breed, just because they are cute on Instagram.

‘For example I’ve had to warn people Corgis are known to be heavy shedders. If you’re getting a Corgi you might want to buy a Dyson as well,’ she said.

Many of these breeds now facing huge risks of abandonment were first made fashionable by celebrities, whose love for trendy breeds caused the designer dog craze.

The RSPCA saw the number Bichon Frise-cross rescues rise from two in 2012 to 22 in 2015. Photo Credit: Pixabay

The charity also reported a steady increase in the number of pug cross-breeds being handed over by owners, peaking at 14 in 2015. Photo Credit: Joe Busby

Yet despite warnings from experts about how celebrity dogs are contributing to record numbers of abandoned ‘handbag dogs’, stars are still flaunting their fashionable puppies to their followers.

With YouTube stars like British beauty vlogger, Zoella and PewDiePie using tiny dogs alongside them in their videos, there are fears they could now be influencing more spontaneous puppy buys.

And as the puppy grows and the excitement of having a new dog wears off, many of these impulse dogs being bought are handed over to rescue centres.

Some people perhaps aren’t happy with their personality or their achievements in life, and they almost live through their pets or their belongings

There are also growing concerns that the success of Internet-famous dogs is making more people buy puppies just to boost likes on their own profiles.

A survey by Sony Mobile revealed that almost one quarter of pet owners have made a social media account exclusively for their pet.

It also found that an astonishing 79% of people had made their pet a Facebook page, with 38% admitting to creating an Instagram account.

This new trend is something psychologists say will become more common as people use their pets to compete with others online and improve how they feel about themselves.

Sony Mobile revealed thousands of pet owners are creating social media accounts to post updates about their furry friends. Photo Credit: Pexels

‘Some people perhaps aren’t happy with their personality or their achievements in life, and they almost live through their pets or their belongings,’ says Dr. Jacqui Taylor, an associate professor in cyber-psychology.

‘So you do get an increased instance these days of people putting either pictures or videos of their pets doing something funny or cute.’

‘In a way they are trying to stimulate that ‘awww’ feeling in the audience, because people might not have said ‘awww’ to a picture of them, but they will to a picture of their pet.

‘We’re seeing the same affect online now, and people are just constantly comparing how many likes someone has got, or comparing different photos.’

As these latest trends put huge pressure on registered breeders to supply ‘must-have’ breeds, there has been a massive increase in owners turning to unclassified sites in search of the perfect puppy.

And with videos of healthy, happy puppies on social media attracting thousands of comments from wannabe owners, sites like Facebook have become havens for illegal breeders to flog their litters.

Hashtags like #puppiesforsale are now being used on sites like Instagram by users trying to flog their pups to the public. Photo Credit: Instagram

Some breeders are getting in on the social media puppy trends by using hashtags like ‘#puppiesforsale’ on Instagram to entice users into buying a puppy.

Now more than a third of UK pet owners say they would consider buying a pet from an advert on social media.

Yet in many cases the puppies sold on unregistered sites are extremely vulnerable to fatal diseases caused by genetic disorders and poor breeding conditions.

And now a shocking one in five pups bought online and on social media are dying before they reach six months old.

The biggest problem with any advert offering an animal for sale is that the decision to purchase a pet is an emotionally charged one.

Experts now say that puppies purchased through adverts on social media often come from mills or have been trafficked, putting them at risk of developing diseases like parvo virus and giardia.

These dogs are also often highly unsocialised, which can make them aggressive towards their owners and other animals.

Now thousands of owners are having to have their beloved new pups put to sleep after just a few days, while others have to give up their dogs after failing to cope with hostile behaviour.

Online puppy sellers tend to ignore these potential problems in their adverts, which leads to many new owners being duped into buying sick puppies.

Charlotte Parsons, a spokesperson for Dogs Trust warned that many unlicensed breeders are using adverts on social media to targeting people’s emotions and sell their puppies.

Figures released by The Kennel Club revealed that a shocking one in five pups bought online and on social media sites die within their first six months. Photo credit: Max Pixel

‘The biggest problem with any advert offering an animal for sale is that the decision to purchase a pet is an emotionally charged one.

‘Human instinct plays a part as many prospective owners want to rescue the animal, not realising that the breeder or seller will only replace that animal with more as a result of the profit they have made on this sale.’

And as these problems become more common, organisations are contacting sites to warn them of dangers of sellers operating on their network.

The Pet Advertising Advisory Group has approached many other classified advertising websites and social media providers to encourage them to consider the welfare of the animals being advertised for sale on their site.

‘Unfortunately many have chosen not to engage, for a variety of reasons, which does lead to the risk of members of the public being fooled by unscrupulous breeders and traders.’

This was the case for Hollie Wheeler, 23, who paid £900 for what she thought was a pure-bred pug, only to be conned by someone falsely advertising pedigree puppies online.

Hollie Wheeler and her family were conned out of a pedigree pug by a breeder they found online. Photo Credit: Hollie Wheeler

‘We found local pug litters online and Mum agreed to go and look. When she called to enquire the owners sold Mum a story about the mother dying when the pups were three weeks through fitting.

‘This pulled on mum’s heart strings and we swallowed the story and took Hattie home,’ says Hollie.

But after a few months, she learned that Hattie was not a pedigree pug like the breeder claimed and was in fact a Jack russell-cross.

‘We first noticed when she was around six to eight months. We took her to a pug walk, and other pug owners asked what she was crossed with.

‘As she got older she started to look less like a pug. We felt conned but by then we loved her and weren’t going to give her up, however we contacted the person who sold her to us.’

I think a lot of people have been influenced. If you look at dog trends, it’s gone from pug to dachshund that now everyone wants.

After being cheated, Hollie is now warning others about the impact the demand for fashionable breeds glamorised on social media is having on the welfare of puppies.

‘I think a lot of people have been influenced. If you look at dog trends, it’s gone from pug to dachshund that now everyone wants.

‘Always consider adopting where you can. With social media populating breeds there can be cases of over-breeding and excesses of dogs ending up in homes.’

Unfortunately, stories like Hollie’s have become all too familiar and unlike Hattie, many dogs do not find such loving owners.

But as the younger generations favour ‘mail order pups’ and buy desirable breeds from unscrupulous sellers, The Kennel Club has warned that these problems will grow.

And with the nation’s love for dogs online showing no signs of fading, thousands more innocent puppies will soon become victims of the latest puppy trends dominating social media.

Danielle White

A dog-lover and investigative journalist always on the look out for the latest social media trends. Find her on Twitter at @daniellel_white

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