Ideally, these online sites would not exist, but this isn't a black and white issue, so we must recognise the practicalities involved for those looking to rehome their dog. We understand how hard it can be to find a suitable rescue space for some dogs, especially for a non-dog friendly large breed or bull breed.

Rescue centres have long waiting lists, and many won't consider these dogs, not because they are being harsh or unhelpful, but because they can't help every dog and have to make difficult choices within their limited resources. We also understand that some owners want to have a degree of control over the home their dog is going to and possibly stay in contact with the new owner, which isn't possible if you surrender your dog to a rescue centre.

We don't want to demonise those who choose to rehome their dogs in this way but given the recent number of dogs we've had abandoned after being rehomed through these sites, we want to give some advice for you to carefully consider before making a decision.

As a first step please ALWAYS contact your local rescue centres, and if necessary be prepared to go on a waiting list. There are also specific breed rescues (some of which will take crosses), and some rescues will also take in dogs further away, so it’s wise to cast your net wide. Be prepared to make a lot of phone calls and don't just give up at the first "no" you receive. Some rescues also offer a "home from home" rehoming service if you can keep your dog for a while.

If you absolutely have no other choice but to use these online sites, then you have a responsibility to minimise the chances of the rehoming failing, or even worse your dog falling into the hands of a "buyer" looking for cheap/free dogs for nefarious purposes, such as breeding or even fighting.

Some suggestions to help you include:

1. Ensure your dog is neutered first. If you can't afford it, check whether you can apply for any of the subsidised neuter schemes run by the larger charities.

2. Make sure you are 100% honest with the description of your dog or it could be a recipe for disaster, especially if rehoming to a young family or a family with other pets.

3. Check out the new home personally. Look at their social media profiles, ask for a vet reference if they already have pets and physically check where they live. If it seems ‘dodgy’ it probably is, so walk away. If you have more than one home offer, check them all out before making a decision, not just go with the first person who offers.

4. Organise an initial meet on neutral ground with any other dogs and family members in the household to ensure they are compatible. Ask lots of questions. Don't just let someone pick your dog up and walk away with it. This is also essential advice for anyone purchasing/rehoming a dog through these sites too.

5. Always put a price against your dog, even if it is only £50 to deter the less scrupulous buyers. Also, if someone can only afford a "free" dog then how are they going to afford vet fees and all the other costs of caring for a dog?

Sadly, we know that many people will just want their dog gone quickly and won't care where it goes, so wouldn't follow any advice.

It is therefore up to purchasers to also make sure they undertake due diligence to minimise the rehoming failing. It is usually the buyers that ring us within 5 minutes of the new dog arriving to say it must be gone now as it has attacked their dog/bitten their child/trashed the house. If we say no then sadly, often that dog is the next ‘fake stray’ to arrive at our centre.

Another good tip is to ask for the vet history first so there are no hidden health issues. Follow the advice above in terms of meeting the dog and ensure you can afford a behaviourist if you need any help and support settling the dog into your family. Even better, minimise the risks by going to your local, reputable rescue centre and adopt a pet with a full support ‘rescue back-up’ package in place.