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Puppy farmers “exploiting confusion around pandemic restrictions”, dog experts warn

Buyers must learn to spot rogue breeders, including those who are exploiting confusion around the pandemic and what restrictions now allow

29 April 2021, at 11:00am

Following a year of emergency COVID-19 laws meaning puppies could be delivered to new homes, The Kennel Club is urging vigilance from would-be owners as domestic travel restrictions across Great Britain relax.

The dog welfare organisation has always urged potential new owners to avoid buying a puppy if the seller is offering to deliver it, as this allows rogue traders and puppy farms to hide horrific breeding conditions from view. During the Coronavirus pandemic however, whilst everyone was instructed to “stay at home”, emergency guidance meant that breeders could deliver puppies to their new homes in certain situations.

With travel restrictions relaxing in Scotland from 26 April, the final domestic easing of the travel rules within Great Britain, The Kennel Club is warning of ongoing puppy deliveries and urging more vigilance from potential new puppy owners, who should now collect their puppy from where it was bred and raised, with its littermates and mum.

“Following a year of confusing and difficult COVID-19 rules for breeders, rescue organisations and potential new owners – alongside a huge demand for dogs – it’s crucial that the general public is clear on how to responsibly buy a puppy, as restrictions ease,” commented Dr Ed Hayes, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at The Kennel Club.

“If you’re buying a puppy which you’ve found online, travel restrictions across Great Britain now allow you to follow usual responsible puppy buying advice: Do not agree to have your puppy delivered to you or meet half-way. Ask for more than one virtual viewing to see where puppies have been brought up and the litter interacting with mum. Following relevant COVID guidelines, meet the breeder, puppies and mum outdoors ahead of purchase.

“There’s been a huge increase in pet ownership during the pandemic, but we need to protect our much-loved four-legged friends and learn to spot and avoid rogue breeders, many of whom are selling online and delivering to homes, hiding horrific conditions and contributing to a puppy welfare crisis.”

During the last year, Governments across Great Britain have passed and enacted Lucy’s Law, which bans third-party puppy sales from the likes of pet shops, in order to help ensure people directly meet their puppy’s breeder and see where puppies have been bred and raised. However, The Kennel Club is warning that this isn’t a silver bullet and buyers must learn to spot rogue breeders, including those who are exploiting confusion around the pandemic and what restrictions now allow.

Dr Hayes continued: “Despite Government’s recent crack-down on third-party sales via Lucy’s Law, puppy farmers can still sell directly to the public online, and we have no doubt that they will exploit confusion around pandemic restrictions and the fact that COVID-19 guidance at one point allowed puppy deliveries.”

In 2018, well before the pandemic put a halt on responsible puppy buying and collection, research by The Kennel Club indicated that more than one in ten puppy buyers paid for their puppy before they had seen it, amounting to an estimated one million dogs in the UK bought this way, and around 630,000 pups out of the estimated nine million strong dog population were “home delivered”. In 2020, as part of its Be Puppywise campaign, The Kennel Club found that almost a third (29 percent) of puppy buyers admitted they wouldn’t know how to spot a rogue breeder.

“This was already a problem, but the normalisation of ‘click and collect’ type purchases during the pandemic is making it easier than ever before to buy things instantly, and for sellers to hide behind a screen, and this is having an alarming impact on the way people expect to buy a puppy,” Dr Hayes added. “Please don’t contribute to a puppy buying crisis by putting convenience over welfare and be vigilant as restrictions change.”

The organisation is urging the public to stay up-to-date on guidance within their area and to follow its three top puppy buying tips as travel restrictions ease and we edge back to “normal”. Whilst there is nothing wrong with seeing an advert for a puppy online, always then:

  1. See the puppy’s home environment and the puppy interacting with its mum and littermates. Do this virtually and ideally in-person, in a secure outdoor space or garden
  2. Don’t accept a puppy being delivered to your door – rogue traders can hide behind the anonymity of the internet
  3. Don’t pay a deposit without seeing the puppy or buy from a breeder who is trying to sell the puppy as quickly as possible – this should ring alarm bells

The Kennel Club has released updated guidance for puppy buyers and breeders via its online COVID-19 hub and further advice on how to buy a dog responsibly, and Be Puppywise, is available at the website as well.