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Puppy explosion during a pandemic

20 Jan 2021 by Vetsmiths

There has been a huge increase in the demand of puppies, as well as kittens and other pets during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

This increase in demand is fuelling an already buoyant puppy smuggling trend.

More concerning is the recent Dogs Trust poll where it revealed that 30% of people would be willing to buy an illegally imported puppy and 44% would be willing to buy from an online advert.

How astonishing is that?!

The Dogs Trust has been highlighting the issue for more than six years, and with demand for puppies – and, in turn, puppy prices – having soared during the pandemic, a perfect storm has been created for criminals looking to cash in.

Between March and the end of November 2020, Dogs Trust rescued 257 puppies illegally imported into the UK from abroad, as well as 16 heavily pregnant bitches that have gone on to give birth to an additional 61 puppies. These alone were worth more than £570,000.

PAWS (PDSA annual Animal Wellbeing Report) revealed that one in four people undertake no research at all before getting a new pet.

Do your research

Conducting limited, to no, research, unfortunately means that people may be unaware of the specific requirements and needs of that animal, leading to welfare and behavioural concerns.  It can also lead to people looking to re-home their new pet within a short period of time because they don’t realise what is involved.

Not doing your research allows people to fall prey to illegal puppy smuggling, puppy farms and scammers.  Buying an illegally imported puppy has huge implications, not only for the puppies who have had to travel hundreds of miles in dire conditions, but also for the mothers who are bred repeatedly for this purpose and poorly cared for.

Impulse buying potentially puts the health and welfare of animals at risk, so it’s important to spend time researching both the breed and type of pet that would fit your lifestyle.  You need to find a reputable breeder who has looked after both the mum and pups appropriately.

We’ve seen puppy prices increase dramatically during the pandemic!  You need to be careful and think very hard if you are being asked to part with large sums of money.  Paying a higher price does not guarantee you a well reared, happy and healthy pup, so as the buyer you must do your homework.  A puppy contract can be downloaded from the Kennel Club and is a worthwhile step to look into.

Choosing a pet responsibly

Owning a pet can be the most rewarding experience, but there are many things to consider before taking the leap.  Every animal has different needs and requirements, so doing your research is a must before taking the plunge into animal ownership.

We recommend discussing options with your vet before purchasing a new puppy, to ensure it’s the right decision for you all.

Buy from a reputable source

Your vet, kennel club or reputable online breed forums can recommend reliable and responsible breeders.  Always ask the breeder for all the relevant paperwork, like pedigree registration papers, health screening certificates and a written medical history, including vaccinations and worming.

Ask to see mum

Always ask to meet the puppy’s mum and siblings.  This way you can see their temperament, general health and welfare – this could be conducted over zoom during the pandemic.  Seeing how the youngsters have been socialised and reared is important.

Avoid puppies raised in kennels as they will have had little time to socialise and may have missed out on important social growth stages.

You can also ask to contact the breeder’s vet and other people who have bought youngsters from them to verify this – if they refuse, go elsewhere.  If you have any concerns during this process, it’s best to step away!


We don’t recommend buying a puppy (or other pet) online, but if you do, always ask for as much information as possible.  Stay away from dealers who offer multiple breeds of pet – these could be puppy farmers who have little/no interest in the pets they sell.  They are in it for one thing and one thing only!

In short

Think carefully before rushing out and buying a puppy (or new pet) just because you might be feeling a bit lonely during Covid.  This is a lifetime commitment that must be taken seriously.  Your new pet needs to be right for you and you need to be right for them.

Remember, a puppy is for life, not just for lockdown.


The PDSA have launched the Get PetWise online quiz which provides handy tips and information to help match your circumstances with the most suitable pet for your lifestyle.