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Lockdown demand sees puppy prices soar, says charity

Illegal breeders have been cashing in on the demand for pandemic pets.

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Becky Bristow, Dogs Trust chief executive, at the charity’s Dublin centre (Brian Lawless/PA)

Becky Bristow, Dogs Trust chief executive, at the charity’s Dublin centre (Brian Lawless/PA)

Becky Bristow, Dogs Trust chief executive, at the charity’s Dublin centre (Brian Lawless/PA)

A high demand for dogs during lockdown has driven puppy prices up by more than four or five times their usual value, leading to fears of a surge in the illegal puppy trade, a pets charity has warned.

Illegal breeders have been cashing in on the demand for pandemic puppies, with dog farmers stepping in to fill the supply gap.

Despite the warnings, people are continuing to use social media sites to buy illegally bred puppies without any information about the animal’s background.

Illegal traders have scaled up their operations over the last year, with some puppy farms caging up to 300 dogs and puppies in barns.

Becky Bristow, executive director at Dogs Trust, said that designer cross-breeds have been “churned out” in recent months.

She said that the demand has seen puppy prices soar.

“Families have always wanted dogs but with one or both parents out working it was never feasible but now, with so many working from home, they can and people are grasping the opportunity,” she said.

“It’s basic supply and demand. For several months, particularly over the summer, more people wanted a dog than was available.

“The reality is that illegal breeders or puppy farmers stepped in to fill that gap and even they couldn’t breed fast enough, so the prices kept going up and up.”

One of the things that deeply concerns us is that the people who bought a puppy during lockdown then start to realise they can't handle it, it's too expensive and instead of trying to find a new home they resell it onlineBecky Bristow, Dogs Trust

She said: “A pedigree dog that usually sells for 500 euro was selling for between 2,500 and 3,000 euro.”

“Dogs became a commodity and it meant people were going online looking for dogs and believing some of the puppy farming marketing.

“Designer cross-breeds were being churned out, there was no socialisation of the dogs and people don’t realise the level of care and expense involved.

“It has absolutely exploded on social media, and one of the things that deeply concerns us is that the people who bought a puppy during lockdown then start to realise they can’t handle it, it’s too expensive and instead of trying to find a new home they resell it online.

“That is as bad as being a puppy farmer because it is putting money before the welfare of the dog.”

She said that some puppies go through two or three homes which leaves them “terrified”.

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Becky Bristow, CEO of Dogs Trust Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

Becky Bristow, CEO of Dogs Trust Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

PA

Becky Bristow, CEO of Dogs Trust Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

Illegal puppy farmers could have up to 100 females that they breed three times a year.

Each breeding female could have between five and six puppies which can sell for around 2,000 euro each.

Illegal breeders demand cash-only for the pups so they cannot be traced back to the dogs.

Ms Bristow urged people to source puppies and dogs through recommended websites including petbond.ie.

She described Ireland as the puppy farm capital of Europe.

“An illegal puppy farm in Ireland could have 300 cages and they are kept in a barn all day. They are lucky if they get out and washed once a week,” she added.

“In this country, chickens are treated better than dogs, but most people don’t know that.

“If you buy it online you do not know where it has come from or its history.”

New legislation for the sale of puppies was introduced in February this year.

The Animal Health and Welfare (Sale or Supply of Pet Animals) 2019 makes it a legal requirement that anyone advertising a pet animal for sale or supply must include certain information in the ad, including the microchip number in the case of dogs.

Puppies must also be eight weeks or older before they can be sold.

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