Animal Charity

Pandemic puppies: the real impact of lockdown on the puppy trade 

Has our isolation lead to a surge in impulse buying of puppies? 


We have all experienced a form of loneliness during the pandemic. Millions of people felt that a new companion would them cheer up and be the perfect addition to their families during lockdown. But, how has this surge of demand impacted the puppy trade?  

According to PFMA, 3.2 million households in the UK have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic. This rampant search for a “pandemic puppy” has increased the number of puppies being sold in classified ad sites.  

Annual statistics released by the UK Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency in February 2021 revealed that dog imports from the EU increased by 52% from 2019 to 2020, while the number of imports from Romania alone increased by 67%. But these are just the known numbers of the trade. Determining the exact scale of the industry is impossible because of the illegal nature of much of the puppy trade. 

Puppies for sale online 

Research conducted by FOUR PAWS showed that right after the first lockdown, the number of ads on classified websites had decreased. However, from mid-May 2020 onwards, with restrictions being eased, the number of dogs and puppies being advertised soared to 185% more puppy ads in April 2021 in Pets4Homes alone.   

Millions of puppies advertised online come from across Europe and are often bred and transported in ruthless conditions to the UK. 

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Astronomical prices 

It's not only the number of dogs being sold that are increasing, but dog prices have also soared. Some breeds have jumped up more than 150% in price since the lockdown began.  

Through our illegal puppy traders form, FOUR PAWS has received reports of different breeds of puppies sold for over £3,000 and even French Bulldogs for £8,000. Moreover, families might end up paying even more when puppies come from dodgy farms and unscrupulous breeders often arrive seriously ill and often die shortly after joining their new families.   

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Thousands of dogs at risk 

Many people rushed in to buying a puppy without properly considering how much responsibility it would be. With our lives slowly getting back to normal, many families will realise they won’t have the conditions to live with a puppy.   

Dogs Trust is predicting tens of thousands of stray dogs could need help in the times ahead and estimates we could see up to 40,000 dogs being abandoned and in need of help, especially in the event of an economic crisis. 

All this hectic search for puppies has been encouraging illegal and dishonest breeders to step in. There has also been a huge increase in the number of dogs reported as stolen. It's estimated that dog thefts have risen by a staggering 250% since the pandemic began.  

Risk of zoonoses 

The illegal puppy trade facilitates the transmission of many zoonoses as no appropriate veterinary care is given to the puppies. There has been an increase in reported cases of dogs infected with brucellosis, a highly contagious zoonotic bacterial disease that can be passed to humans. Experts say it is likely due to the increasing number of puppies and dogs imported into the UK over the last year. 

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Today, more and more dogs are being cruelly bred and transported to the UK as more families are falling victim to a puppy scam. That’s why FOUR PAWS is urging potential puppy owners to #ThinkBeforeYouClick and to be aware of what the real cost of buying a puppy is

Been a victim of the illegal puppy trade?

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Animal Charity - Joana

Joana Fernandes

UK Investigations Consultant

Joana supports the UK investigations Team by managing illegal puppy trade cases reported to the FOUR PAWS UK. She also liaises with the Communication Team helping to raise awareness about this issue. She has over five years experience as a researcher and project assistant in wildlife conservation and animal welfare, both in the UK and internationally.   

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