Concerns over pet welfare crisis due to high demand for ‘pandemic puppies’ | Dogs
The unprecedented demand for puppies during the pandemic has had serious consequences for animal health and welfare, a study found.
Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) looked at the past 16 months’ impact on puppy buying amid concerns that a huge puppy welfare crisis was unfolding in the UK. They found that many people who bought dogs during Covid did so with the best of intentions, but the extreme surge in demand has increased the risk of puppies coming from poor welfare environments, being bred or raised on puppy farms, or illegally imported.
Animal behaviorists and charities have raised concerns that the demand for “pandemic puppies” made prices soar and lead to an unethical boom Black market breeding and more and more dog theft. They also warned that pandemic puppies are more prone to poor health, as well as behavioral issues like aggression and separation anxiety. Even with impulsively bought puppies there is a risk that they will be given away after Covid.
The national study, interviewing 5,517 owners, focused on puppies purchased between March 23 and December 31, 2020. The results were then compared to responses from owners who bought puppies over the same period in 2019.
It found that some pandemic puppy owners were less likely to seek credible breeders, such as 2,000 for their new pet.
Pandemic puppy owners were also more likely to buy a younger puppy, see it without their littermates, and have it picked up or delivered outside of a breeder’s property.
The study also found that owners of pandemic puppies were more likely to have had no previous experience of owning a dog. They also had children in the household more often and were motivated to buy a puppy to improve their own mental wellbeing or that of their family.
Before Covid, more than 10% had not thought of buying a dog. And where 86% thought their decision to buy a puppy was influenced by the pandemic, most often it was because they had more time to look after a dog.
Dr. Rowena Packer, lecturer in pet behavior and welfare at RVC and lead author on the study, said demand coupled with social distancing restrictions created “the perfect environment for unscrupulous breeders and puppy dealers.”
“That includes desperate buyers willing to pay above average for puppies and a simple excuse to hide poor conditions that puppies were raised in,” she added. “Based on our results, we fear that many well-meaning owners … fell into this trap and inadvertently promoted this deplorable industry.”
Dogs Trust advises buyers to do extensive research on a seller and never purchase a puppy that they have not seen in person, in their home, and in interaction with their real mother and littermates. The recommended guidance is that a puppy should be over 8 weeks old. Even with online advertisements that often sell smuggled puppies, people should be careful, ask the seller lots of questions about the animal and be willing to provide lots of answers in return, and walk away if something doesn’t look right or isn’t right feels.
The RVC urged owners who are concerned about their puppy’s health, behavior, or wellbeing to contact their veterinarian or a qualified behavioral specialist to resolve issues that may have arisen in their early life.