Answer: much more expensive than you might think…
This was certainly the case for animal-lover and experienced dog owner Sarah, when a friend called upon her for help.
The friend had just purchased a Teacup Yorkshire Terrier puppy - advertised on the internet - and unfortunately realised three days later that her family simply wasn’t prepared for the addition of a dog, so she asked Sarah to take the puppy in.
It is far from the usual way in which Sarah and her family would make a decision about introducing a new dog to their home, but she felt she had to help.
Sarah recalls: “It was within the first week we realised Molly was not right. She lacked energy, often starved herself for whole days, and was constantly restless.
“At first, we put this down to her being a small, nervous Yorkie who was just struggling to settle in, but she was soon losing weight and becoming even more lethargic. We had to act and took her straight to the vet.
“We subsequently found out that she had been purchased from puppy farmers and hadn’t been given the vaccinations shown on her paperwork.
During the first few weeks, Molly developed a horrible cough, which resulted in fits, leaving the dog gasping for breath.
The terrifying experience left Sarah and her family feeling helpless. They monitored Molly constantly, knowing there was always a threat that she would take a turn for the worst.
Molly was eventually diagnosed with a form of kennel cough, which meant she had to be kept away from other dogs in case she passed anything on.
Incapable of introducing Molly to dogs, new environments or public places, she started missing out on an important part of her early development.
Sarah and her family had to wait until Molly’s health was in a stable condition (something which fluctuated frequently) in order to get her vaccinations and take her out on walks.
Sarah said: “Consequently, Molly is now nervous around other dogs, unsettled in busy places and territorial of her home because it’s the only place she’s known for the majority of her early life. We are constantly working on ways to help her improve her confidence and sense of security.”
Of course, veterinary care for very poorly animals doesn’t come cheap and when asked about the financial impact something like this can have on a family, Sarah added: “Within the first few months Molly was in and out of the vet.
"She was hospitalised several times due to stomach problems where she would dehydrate.
“It was a very difficult thing to cope with financially. Because she developed these problems immediately, she wasn’t covered by insurance and so we had to pay every one of the many veterinary bills ourselves.
"Thankfully, we had the resources to deal with the situation but who knows what would have happened if we couldn’t pay.”
Going on to explain how this terrible ordeal emotionally affected her and her whole family, Sarah added: “Three years, and a lighter purse, later our full-sized (not teacup as advertised) Yorkie has only just reached a point where our trips to the vet are as normal as any other dogs, and the whole family aren’t left holding our breath for her next illness.
“We all love her dearly, and wouldn’t change her for the world, her intelligence and agility impresses us every day, but our journey has caused us to question whether taking her on was a responsible choice after seeing the consequences.”
Sarah and her family have no clue if Molly has inherited any medical problems that she will suffer from in later years.
They have no idea if she will even live a normal lifespan. They think about Molly’s littermates, who were probably all in the same terrible condition and wonder if they managed to survive the trauma.
“This is our story, about how our lives were turned upside down by the actions of unscrupulous breeders, out to make a quick buck from poorly bred and very sick young puppies.
"We hope people will read it and approach puppy buying with caution if ever they are tempted by the cute doggy on the internet.”
Thankfully, the perpetrators in this case have all been brought to justice. However, there are many more dogs like Molly still out there, who desperately need our help to put an end to puppy farming.
Please sign and share the NAWTs Puppy Pledge and help us to ensure that fewer people making the decision to buy a puppy, fall victim to puppy farming con artists.
And please consider a visiting your local rescue centres, where there are hundreds of dogs looking for loving new homes.
Last month, history was made when the government agreed to the Lucy’s Law campaign to end puppy farming, which will result in a ban on selling puppies and kittens in pet shops and other third party outlets. It means anyone wishing to buy a puppy or kitten under six months old will have to deal directly with the breeder or with an animal rehoming centre.
* Some details in this article have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.