How much is that doggy in the window?

As panic buying continues, toilet roll, pasta and hand sanitiser are among the many things that have consistently flew off the shelves throughout the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic, however, a dearth of puppies wasn’t among the shortages expected as a result of the health crisis. With millions working from home and being placed on furlough, the demand for new furry friends to keep us company throughout the dreary days of lockdown has soared dramatically and it is understood that this has led to prices for popular pooches such as Cockapoos and French Bulldogs now being quoted at double their usual price. According to Pets4Home, £829 is the average price a buyer would usually pay for a designer crossbreed cockapoo pup, however, there are now cockapoos being advertised on their site for over triple this price at £2,800. That is over £1,000 more than the average monthly salary in the UK!

Cockapoo puppies are now being quoted at triple their usual price

These extortionate prices don’t seem to faze many as ‘waiting lists’ have very much become a thing in the puppy market with many potential owners enquiring about an estimated date for future litters and puppies being ‘sold’ before they are even born.

According to research conducted by the Kennel Club, 38% of those who have bought a puppy during the pandemic did so because they were spending more time at home. With Christmas fast approaching, the demand for puppies is only expected to increase further which has caused concern for puppy welfare among dog charities. Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Dogs Trust, recently explained that puppies could suffer from separation anxiety when their owners, who have been furloughed or working from home during the pandemic, return to their place of work if they have grown used to their owners being with them 24/7 and giving them a lot of attention. Sharp has also stated that there have been a large amount of reports of owners already wanting to return dogs because they are returning to work and urges buyers to consider their long-term plans when searching for a furry companion.

The Danger of Puppy Farms

Due to the high puppy demand, it is more important than ever to carry out proper research into where we are purchasing our puppies from. The Kennel Club reported that a quarter of new owners admitted they bought their dog after doing little research and the scary reality is that an increase in demand of puppies will subsequently lead to an increase in puppies being bought from puppy farms. If you aren’t aware of why this is so scary, keep reading.

A puppy farm is essentially a factory farm, but with dogs. These dogs are treated as nothing more than products being manufactured, purely for profit! Puppy farmers continue breeding from a female dog until she physically can’t have puppies anymore. The mothers often die due to the enormous strain on their bodies or are abandoned when they are no longer deemed useful for breeding. The puppies are not properly socialised with other people and are often separated from their mothers too early – because of this, these puppies are more likely to develop behavioural issues. Puppy farmers also tend to breed dogs that are closely related which results in poor puppies suffering from serious health complications and being sold to buyers as perfectly healthy dogs. Some pups die before or even after they are purchased by a buyer as a result of poor health and the conditions they are kept in but puppy farmers DO NOT CARE about the welfare of these dogs. They care about one thing; the cash in their pockets.

Below is a link to an episode of BBC show Panorama which shone a light on Ireland’s biggest puppy farmer; Ray Cullivan, back in 2016. Cullivan’s farm features in the video from the 8th minute on and exposes the horrific truth behind the farm, which is based in Cavan and was recently rediscovered online as ‘Dogs.ie’, advertising two large breed litters; Retrievers and Doodles.

Although there are laws against puppy farms and the illegal sale of puppies, they are very much still in existence. Many buyers miss the red flags of puppy farms, with one in four pandemic puppy owners saying they might inadvertently have bought their pet from a puppy farm. But how do you know if you are buying from a farm or a legitimate breeder? I have placed some tips below on how to spot and avoid puppy farms.

5 tips on how to spot and avoid puppy farms:

  1. Perform a Google search of the phone number listed on the puppy advertisement. This will allow you to see how many other ads are associated with that number. Puppy farmers also often copy and paste descriptions on advertisements so the details will be kept to a minimal and used for several different litters and breeds of dog.

  2. If the puppy you want to buy has a passport, there is a huge possibility your puppy has been imported from a country where there are little or no breeding laws. Only puppies over the age of 12 weeks should be able to get a passport, so sellers claiming that very young pups have passports is a red flag.

  3. Ask to see health certificates from BOTH the puppy’s parents and make sure you ask plenty of questions about the breed of dog. A genuine breeder will have extensive knowledge about the breed they are selling.

  4. Puppy farmers might try to persuade you to meet in a public place such as a park and ride or a supermarket car park to “reduce your journey”. Instead, make sure you are able to see the puppy at it’s home with the mother present. This may be more difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions, but it is essential when buying a puppy. If the buyer makes an excuse about why you can’t see the mother, do not buy a puppy from them. NOTE: Puppy farmers may expect you to ask about seeing the mother and will try to pass off a healthy dog as the mother of the litter so make sure to watch how the mother interacts with the puppies. Take notice if she has teats or is watchful and connected with her pups – does the puppy feed from her?

  5. Puppy farmers quite often use generic photographs of healthy dogs to attract buyers and dupe them into buying a different puppy. Take the advertisement photograph with you when visiting the dog to ensure it is the same dog being advertised.

If you think you have encountered a puppy farm, do not buy from it! I have encountered a farm myself so I know how difficult it can be to walk away from a puppy knowing it is probably not receiving the care and attention it deserves and needs. It is normal to want to remove the puppy from mistreatment but buying from a farm will only put more money into the farmers pockets, allowing them to continue to mistreat more dogs and puppies as a result. If you found the puppy advertisement online, report it on the website and to the RSPCA or if you directly witness cruelty to any dogs or puppies do not hesitate to ring the police.

If you would like to contribute to the fight against puppy farms and help end the illegal sale of dogs in Ireland, please take a minute to watch the Dogs Trust ad and sign their #soldapup petition I have placed below.

Thankyou.

Link to Dog’s Trust Petition: http://dogstrust.ie/soldapup

Katie McKeown is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.