During the pandemic we have had to stay at home more than ever before. It’s unsurprising therefore that many people have thought that this is as good a time as any to get a dog and 2020 did indeed see a huge surge in the demand for puppies. Alongside this demand came hugely inflated prices and an unfortunate rise in unscrupulous breeding practices.
Early last year Lucy’s Law was passed through parliament in England which was a huge win for dog welfare in the UK. This long awaited legislation abolished the act of third party sales meaning pups and kittens must be bought directly from the breeder or from a registered rescue centre. Very soon the rest of the UK is set to follow which is surely a good thing but unfortunately puppy farmers have been exploiting the restrictions of lockdown and the pandemic to a sinister advantage. Because of social distancing and the message of ‘essential travel only’ puppy farmers are able to make sales easily without many questions asked or checks made. As a result the veterinary profession has seen a surge in sickly, underweight, and extremely young puppies needing to visit their hospitals.
So what can all prospective new dog owners do to ensure that they are not inadvertently buying from a puppy farm, or an opportunistic breeder who does not have high welfare considerations for the bitch and her pups?
● Set up multiple visits, you can still do this whilst socially distancing. Puppy farmers will find it difficult setting up multiple visits as they will usually use a decoy ‘home’. Remember if you visit and mum is “not available” this is a huge red flag.
● If you cannot physically visit due to distance ask to video call the breeder often so that you can see pups with mum. Technology now is so readily available this should not be an issue. If the breeder refuses, walk away.
● Ask for lots of pictures at different stages, this should not be a problem for a genuine breeder. If there are multiple contacts and numbers involved be cautious.
● Responsible breeders will not let pups go before 8 weeks of age and they will usually ensure the pup has had their first vaccine. If the seller is willing to let the puppy go any earlier do not agree. It is vital pups stay with their mother and littermates until 8 weeks of age and you should treat this seller with caution.
● Never trust “half-way-motorway or car park sales” especially if you have never completed any of the above steps. Chances are this is not a genuine breeder.
If you are completely satisfied that your breeder is reputable with high welfare standards and you still want to go ahead with becoming a puppy parent, then there are still some pandemic related impacts you might you want to consider before making the final decision:
● Many veterinary practices have a back-log of work and are still restricting new client registrations. Make sure you can register your pup for it’s vaccinations before you bring them home.
● Further restrictions on social mixing means that you might not be able to fully socialise your pup and expose them to the full range of experiences that will set them up to be a confident well-adjusted dog.
● Working from home may not be the future norm, meaning you may have to make provision for dog care during the day.
● Your change in routine in the future could leave your pup with separation related conditions that may be difficult to manage in the future.
There has been nothing normal about the last 12 months. Raising a puppy has not been the same as it would have been in 2019. Things are without a doubt a lot harder in this climate and may require a lot more consideration and planning to make sure your dog turns out as happy and healthy as possible.Keep this in mind before you join the trend of pandemic puppies.