While demand for essential supplies such as toilet paper and hand soap soared in the last few months, few expected that puppies would join the list of must-have items for surviving a pandemic. Yet despite lockdown restrictions, the number of classified adverts for puppies has remained rife. Media outlets have reported on the unusual lengths that some people have gone to get a puppy during lockdown, such as the family that was stopped on a 300 mile journey from Manchester to Dundee, in order to collect a puppy. So what can situations like this tell us about society’s demand for puppies, and the way dogs are treated during the time of coronavirus?
FOUR PAWS research has shown that as many as 4,000 adverts for dogs and puppies could be found on just Gumtree and Pets4Homes during the peak of lockdown. This is a reduction though, as before lockdown was implemented there were in excess of 7,000 adverts for dogs on these two sites alone. Classified ad sites have notoriously become breeding grounds for unscrupulous puppy dealers. FOUR PAWS has been campaigning to protect puppies and kittens for many years and had been optimistic that the arrival of Lucy’s Law would help in stopping the illegal puppy trade. Unfortunately the new regulations came into effect in the middle of the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown. Government advice was that, while a potential puppy buyer should not travel to buy a puppy, breeders could deliver a puppy to their door. This advice flies in the face of the very premise on which Lucy’s Law was built: you should ALWAYS see the conditions a dog was bred in, and meet their mother, before committing to a purchase.
Despite the short-lived drop in the number of adverts, business appears to be returning to normal for puppy traders. However this normality has not returned soon enough for some who were left with dogs they were unable to sell. We were recently called to help when 27 Chihuahuas, most of which were pregnant, were relinquished to a vet practice in Hungary because the breeder couldn’t sell them. These dogs could have been destined for the UK and for unsuspecting owners unaware of the lives these potential pets have already led. It is likely this is not an isolated case and again acts as a stark warning surrounding the growing, but hidden, illegal puppy trade.
We know that in these times some of us will be thinking of adding a dog to their families, and whilst they are a great addition to a home, it’s important to consider whether you can offer them the long-term care they need. We do not want people rushing into this commitment and rescue centres being overwhelmed when the lockdown is lifted. If you are certain that now is the right time, find out where your nearest rescue organisation is and get in touch. There may be more restrictions in place at the moment but the teams of pet adoption experts can ensure you are matched with your perfect companion, rather than seeking out a puppy from a stranger online.
Find out more about the number of online puppy adverts during lockdown below: