Coronavirus restrictions are creating the perfect storm for puppy smugglers to thrive, with the price for popular breeds reaching record levels.With thousands setting up home offices and having more time to look after a dog, demand for puppies has shot up over the last four months. Since the UK’s lockdown was announced on March 23, Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ increased by 166%, revealed the charity Dogs Trust.
But experts said that following the hike in demand, ‘more dogs than ever’ will face abandonment in the coming months. The charity estimates that 40,000 are at risk of being given up in the fall-out of the Covid-19 crisis.
The asking price for five of the most popular breeds – dachshunds, English bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs and chow chows – spiked to record levels between March and June. This means they are some of the breeds most at risk of falling victim to the cruel practice of overseas smuggling, said the charity.
Dachshunds saw the biggest price hike between March to June, increasing by 89% from £973 to £1,838.
The cost of chow chows increased by 67% to £1,872, while English bulldogs remain the most expensive breed now costing £2,140 – but some advertisements were as high as £9,000.
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Researchers reviewed adverts from the last three years on some of the UK’s largest classified advertising websites.And the demand has kept smugglers busy, despite restrictions on movement. A scheme run by the charity has so far rescued at the UK border 43 puppies and 12 heavily pregnant mums – who later gave birth to 56 puppies – that were illegally imported from central and eastern Europe.
If sold, they could have earned smugglers an estimated £180,000 in total.
Dog’s Trust is now warning new pet owners against handing over money before first seeing the dog in person and to be wary of online adverts. Veterinary Director and Chair of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group, Paula Boyden, said there are many sellers who are ‘just looking to tug on heartstrings and exploit the situation for their own profit’.
She said: ‘With puppies in such high demand, and selling for such high prices, it’s creating a lucrative market for cruel puppy smugglers and, sadly, we have rescued many dogs illegally imported into the country, destined to be sold during lockdown.
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‘It’s also creating a perfect storm for people to be Dogfished and scammed out of their hard-earned money. That is why it is so important to always see a pup with and interacting with their mum and to go and see them more than once.
‘Never pay a deposit without seeing the puppy in person first and check all paperwork carefully. If something doesn’t seem right, as hard as it may be, walk away and report the seller.’
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