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Devastated family fall victim to ‘dogfishers’ after new Labrador puppy dies within 12 hours

A family who fell victim to cruel ‘dogfishers’ was left devastated when their adorable new puppy died within 12 hours.

Father-of-two Damian Burwitz, 43, of Biggleswade, told how little Leia made an instant impact on his two sons, who fell in love with the Chocolate Labrador when he and wife Kelly brought her home.

But the following morning the concerned couple rushed the pup to the vets when she wouldn’t stop vomiting, where she was diagnosed with parvo, a highly contagious virus, and put to sleep. 

Damian said his youngest son Oliver, then seven, still cries when he looks at a photo he kept of her.

‘She was our first family dog,’ he told the Mirror. ‘It wasn’t a long time that she was with us, but enough to make an emotional connection.’

Damian and Kelly drove from their home in Bedfordshire to Birmingham to purchase a puppy they’d seen for sale online.

However, when they arrived they discovered there’d been a mix-up and the dog they wanted had been sold.

Keen for their journey not to have been wasted and desperate not to return home to sons Oliver and Lucas, then 10, empty-handed, they had another look online to see if there were any other dogs available to purchase in the area.

They found a Chocolate Labrador puppy with an asking price of £500 and contacted the owner, who told them he was unable to keep the dog due to his landlord.

He added that the dog was staying at his mother’s home, however she didn’t like visitors, so the couple agreed to meet him in a pub car park. 

Damian, a client relationship manager for a bank, said they were told the puppy was eight weeks old and, while she was ‘a little quiet and withdrawn’, she didn’t look unhealthy. 

They agreed on £350 for a quick sale, and Damian admitted they didn’t suspect anything wrong because they were ‘just excited about getting a dog’.

On the journey back they decided to book Leia in with the vet the following day for a check-up.

But within an hour of them home, the pup began vomiting – which Damian and Kelly initially put down to car sickness from the long drive.

When Leia failed to improve, they rushed her to the vets where they were given the awful news that nothing more could be done to save her.

The couple said they tried to contact the seller but failed to get a response. 

To make matters worse, the family bought another dog two weeks later which also contracted parvo.

Damian told FEMAIL: ‘We didn’t know how contagious this is and it can apparently take six weeks to dissipate. 

‘Our new dog spent a week in the vets but made it through. We just wished we knew more about parvo and how bad it could be. I believe it’s quite common with these illegal sales.’

Sadly the Burwitz family are not alone; earlier this year the UK charity Dogs Trust issued a warning over a ‘dogfishing’ scam after thousands of unsuspecting owners bought illegally smuggled puppies organised by criminal gangs.

Dogfishing is a verb which means to mislead someone into buying a dog which may not be what it seems. 

The organisation revealed many owners have been conned or ‘dogfished’ into buying illegal puppies that often have hidden health or behavioural problems, leaving them heartbroken and almost £500 on average out-of-pocket.

The charity added that thousands have fallen victim to illegal puppy smuggling, where the animals are brought into the UK from central and eastern European countries, before being sold on for vast profits.  

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at Dogs Trust, commented at the time: ‘People think they are getting a healthy, happy puppy but behind the curtain lurks the dark depths of the puppy smuggling trade.

‘Many of these poor puppies suffer significant health conditions or lifelong behavioural challenges, and sadly some don’t survive, leaving their buyers helpless and heartbroken – as well as out of pocket. 

‘If it seems too good to be true, as hard as it is, walk away and report it.’

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