The change in guidance follows concerns that the coronavirus crisis is contributing to an increase in puppy farms after a huge rise in the prices of popular breeds since March. Average prices have risen by up to 89% as demand has soared.
The two charities had previously told buyers it was acceptable, during lockdown, to view puppies by video. However, now that non-essential travel is allowed, they say it is vital that buyers visit the seller’s home to avoid handing over large sums of money to unscrupulous dog breeders.
An English bulldog was listed for an average price of £2,140 in June, says the Dogs Trust. Photograph: Jacob King/PA“There’s been an increase in reports of scams around people putting deposits down for pets that don’t actually exist, because they haven’t seen the pets in person,” Claire Wilson-Leary, of the Dogs Trust, told the Observer. “Unless there are local lockdowns in place, go and see the puppy in its home, where it was bred.”The RSPCA has also recorded an increase in imports of puppies and kittens during lockdown and said the potential for buyers to be duped was “much greater” than usual. An RSPCA spokeswoman, Sam Gaines, said: “We need buyers to be absolutely super-aware of what they need to do to protect themselves and make sure that they are buying responsibly.”
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Having a dog in the house means more bacteria enters the home and gets inside the occupants (one study found “dog-related biodiversity” is especially high on pillowcases.) In turn, people with dogs seem to get ill less frequently and less severely than people with no pets.
Puppies were being bred at scale, separated from their mothers far too young, and transported to scammers who pretend they have bred their family pet, she said.
“Because there is no reason that you cannot now go into someone’s home, provided you use social distancing and following good hygiene practices, you absolutely should be seeing mum there with her litter. If a seller’s saying ‘no, you can’t come into my home’, that should be a concern, that should be making you feel something’s not quite right – and at that point, you should be walking away.”