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Exclusive Interview with KUSA: Unveiling the Truth About Purebred Dogs and Puppy Scams in South Africa

In this exclusive Pets24 interview, we had the privilege of speaking to Gérard Robinson, Secretary of the Kennel Union of Southern Africa (KUSA). With his extensive knowledge and experience within the realm of purebred dogs, Gérard provides invaluable insights into the role of KUSA, its significance as South Africa’s internationally recognised registry for purebred dogs, and the actions it takes to combat fraudulent practices, i.e. so-called puppy scams. Join us as we delve into the world of KUSA and discover how it fosters ethical breeding practices amongst its members and encourage responsible dog ownership with the South African public.

Can you give me a brief overview of what KUSA is?

Absolutely. KUSA is the acronym for the Kennel Union of Southern Africa, an organisation that is about hundred and forty years old. It is the official registry for purebred dogs in South Africa, registered by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) in terms of the Animal Improvement Act as the Breeders’ Society and Registering Authority for 218 canine breeds in South Africa. KUSA is the custodian of the Breed Standards of these breeds and deals with all matters relevant to their health and well-being. More breeds are expected to be gazetted by the DALRRD soon, which will increase the breeds under KUSA’s custodianship to approximately 250. That’s KUSA in a nutshell. It’s important to note that KUSA does not register breeders; it has members who voluntarily register the dogs they breed with KUSA.

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Can you shed light on the prevalence of puppy scams targeting pet buyers in South Africa and the specific risks associated with purchasing a puppy sight unseen?

Puppy scams are unfortunately rife in South Africa, as they are all over the world. Never has the maxim of “caveat emptor”, or “the buyer beware”, been more relevant than in the acquisition of a puppy. Buyers face several risks when purchasing dogs sight unseen from unknown sources. They have no idea whether they are buying from a reputable breeder who registers dogs with KUSA or whether the dogs actually exist. These “breeders” may not adhere to ethical breeding practices, leading to health issues or behavioural problems in the purchased pets. Also, buyers might not receive proper documentation, e.g. registration papers, attesting to the dog’s lineage. 

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To find the right dog, start by researching breeds that suit your family and circumstances. Check breed standards on the KUSA website to understand temperament and the purpose for which the breed was developed. Resist impulse-buying; instead, involve the family in meticulous research. To avoid being scammed, ensure that any purebred puppy considered for purchase is registered with KUSA. KUSA maintains a listing on its website of breeders who register their dogs with KUSA and can also refer you to breed-specific clubs for further guidance. You are also encouraged to attend KUSA-licensed dog shows, which are frequently held in Gauteng at Goldfields Showgrounds in Bedfordview, Johannesburg. There, you can see a variety of breeds and meet the breeders. Consult the KUSA Events Calendar on the KUSA website for information about dog shows held around the country.

Dog looking up at owner. Exclusive Interview with KUSA: Unveiling the Truth About Dog Breeders and Scams in South Africa

From your perspective, what are some common tactics used by fraudulent breeders to deceive unsuspecting buyers, and how can consumers identify and avoid falling victim to such scams?

Fraudsters employ various tactics to deceive buyers, often fraudulently using the KUSA logo to attract buyers and issue falsified information. They advertise puppies of a variety of breeds for sale, often rare or “designer” breeds in exotic colours. They invariably claim to have puppies of a breed in which the buyer is interested readily available for sale. When the buyer takes the bait, suddenly, there will be only a single puppy still looking for a home, and then the pressure is on the buyer to commit to the sale. The scammer then demands an upfront payment and will always be in a distant location, which means that the puppy cannot be visited and that it has to be flown to its new home. So, in addition to the puppy’s price, the buyer has to pay for the flight and crate in advance. When the travel date arrives, there is often the frenzied phone call “from the airport” to say that the airline won’t allow the crate to be loaded as it is too small for the puppy. The buyer then makes an emergency transfer of funds for a bigger crate. That’s where all communication ends. The scam is complete, and no puppy will ever arrive at its destination!

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How does KUSA registration serve as a crucial factor in safeguarding pet buyers against fraudulent practices, particularly within the context of the South African dog breeding industry?

When acquiring a KUSA-registered puppy, the buyer can at least be assured that he would be buying from a KUSA member bound by KUSA’s Code of Conduct for Breeders. KUSA expects its breeder members to adhere to high standards of ethical conduct in their breeding practices, including health testing. By purchasing a KUSA-registered dog, buyers acquire an animal with verifiable lineage and health records. The temptation of turning to Google, as so many members of the public do, and hooking up with a scammers-in-waiting is vastly diminished.

Different dogs at a dog show. Exclusive Interview with KUSA: Unveiling the Truth About Dog Breeders and Scams in South Africa

What are the consequences of scammers defrauding individuals, underscoring the importance of choosing KUSA-registered dogs?

While there are numerous instances of individuals being misled or defrauded by scammers, it’s essential to highlight the consequences of falling victim to scams. Buyers have reported being scammed out of significant amounts of money by unscrupulous scammers, but what’s worse is the emotional distress and disappointment of the buyers. This underscores the importance of choosing breeders who are KUSA members, who are at least expected to uphold ethical standards and, hopefully, strive to breed healthy and well-socialised dogs.

What steps can pet buyers take to verify the authenticity and credibility of a dog’s KUSA registration status before making a purchase, especially considering the increasing sophistication of scams?

Pet buyers can take several steps to verify a breeder’s KUSA registration status and credibility. The first step is to contact KUSA by email to verify the breeder’s KUSA membership status and the puppy’s registration status. Additionally, buyers should request documentation from the breeder, including copies of the registration papers of the parents and vaccination certificates. It’s also advisable for the buyer to visit the breeder’s premises in person to verify, first-hand, the conditions under which the puppies were raised. There’s nothing wrong with asking the breeder for references from other buyers and following up on these. Remember, reputable breeders are proud of their breeding and should have no hesitation in providing the buyer with as much information as required to feel secure about the purchase.

Running dog. Exclusive Interview with KUSA: Unveiling the Truth About Dog Breeders and Scams in South Africa

In your experience, what advantages does a KUSA registration offer both breeders and consumers?

KUSA is a legitimate, trusted and internationally recognised registry of purebred dogs and, for the informed public, it represents the undisputed gold standard of canine registries. When exercising the sensible choice of acquiring a KUSA-registered puppy, the likelihood of being defrauded is all but eliminated.

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What initiatives or measures do you believe are necessary to combat puppy scams further?

Remember, patience is key when buying a puppy, even if the kids nag and whine. An impulse purchase through internet contact is a scam waiting to happen. We all have our parts to play in protecting gullible consumers by advocating caution and vigilance when acquiring a pet that will become a family member for the next ten to fifteen years.

As we conclude this insightful interview with Gérard Robinson, Secretary of KUSA, we gain a deeper understanding of KUSA’s pivotal role in safeguarding the integrity of South African breeders of KUSA-registered purebred dogs. Through its stringent standards, transparent practices, and commitment to ethical breeding, KUSA continues to uphold its mission of promoting responsible dog ownership and ensuring the welfare of canines of all breeds. As dog lovers and -enthusiasts, let’s continue to support organisations like KUSA in their efforts to maintain the highest standards of excellence in dog breeding, thereby ultimately fostering a healthier and happier cohabitation of dogs and owners.

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