‘Pedigree’ pup price explodes during pandemic - but 40,000 could be abandoned

The price of pedigree pups exploded online during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Experts in animal welfare in NI have revealed they have been aware of inflated prices for pedigree puppies during lockdown with sites like Gumtree advertising pups at X5 and X6 times their former price.

Pups such as Cocker Spaniels - which had been selling for around £400, are now being advertised for £2,000.

Today on the site, English bulldog pups are being advertised for £2,500, German shepherd pups for £1,600, black Labrador pups for £1,300 and French bulldog pups for a whopping £3,000.

Conor O’Kane, rehoming manager at Dogs Trust in NI, said: “We are aware of reports of puppies being sold for much higher prices during lockdown due to the high demand for pets.

“At the start of January this year, there were over 1,000 adverts for dogs on three of the largest classified websites.

“This was a 59% increase compared to the same period in 2020. “

Conor added that there was disappointment for those who bought puppies from online adverts.

“People who purchase a new puppy online, from what appears to be a legitimate breeder may think they are getting a healthy, happy dog but behind the curtain lurks the dark depths of the puppy smuggling trade and deceitful sellers who put profits before animal welfare,” he added.

“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 you do choose to purchase a puppy online, we would advise that you take appropriate steps to avoid being ‘dogfished’.

“Always ask to see puppy and mum together at their home, even if its via video call due to coronavirus restrictions, ask lots of questions, check vital paperwork, and make sure to visit or video call more than once. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is and as hard as it is if you have concerns, walk away and report the seller to trading standards. “

Anna Mulholland, 21, who owns Randal Hounds dog groomers in Randalstown said she has come into contact with a lot of first-time dog owners in the last year.

“A lot of puppies have been bought in lockdown,” said Anna.

“But I would worry about the people I am not seeing, whose dogs are not being looked after and who are not getting trained.

My concern is that they could be abandoned as we start to go back to normal.”

Anna added that she always cautions people to be wary of online ads for dogs.

“The ads on Gumtree for dogs are exorbitant,” she added.

“If a dog is bred well and has champion lineage then sellers can charge £2,000.

“But now I am seeing breeds mixed together and sold as a much wanted breed.

“These dogs are not KC (Kennel Club) registered and not bred well and people should not pay thousands of pounds for a non pedigree dog.

“I think it all started with lockdown and people starting to breed in their homes and garages just for the money.

“And more and more people copied them.

“I think a lot of it is about money and not about the dogs. I feel for the poor dogs.”

Conor added that he saw that the isolation of the pandemic brought on “a huge increase in the demand for dogs”.

“In 2020 there was a 62% increase in the number of calls Dogs Trust received from people looking to adopt a dog, compared to the previous year.  

“With a lockdown in place, people might think now is the perfect time to get a dog because they are spending more time at home and would like additional companionship. For some this will be the case, but we’re asking everyone to consider how your life will need to change to accommodate your four-legged friend once lockdown lifts.”  

Conor added that initially Dogs Trust had estimated “that as many as 40,000 dogs could be at risk of being abandoned or brought into our care based on patterns we saw unfold following the last recession in 2008”.

But, he added, that with lockdowns still in force “the extended furlough scheme has provided a vital lifeline to many people and the full effects of the pandemic have yet to be felt”.

“Unfortunately, we believe the worst is yet to come and that we will likely see more people having to give up their dog if families struggle to cope with the fallout of the coronavirus crisis or life changes for them in a way they didn’t predict.“

He added that “anyone struggling to cope with looking after your dog, for whatever reason, contact Dogs Trust on 0300 303 2188”. “Alternatively, please give what you can to help Dogs Trust change the tale for dogs who haven’t yet found their forever home, by visiting www.dogstrust.org.uk/changethetale “


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