'It got a bit wild west': Norfolk dog breeders on the Covid puppy boom

The demand for puppies is still higher than before the first Covid-19 lockdown.

The demand for puppies is still higher than before the first Covid-19 lockdown. - Credit: Clay Hall Kennels

The demand for puppies is still at higher levels than before the start of the first lockdown, according to dog breeders across Norfolk.

Due to Covid, some dog breeders decided to stop selling puppies which led to the prices of the pets soaring and a spike in illegal puppy farms.

Michaela Betts, who runs Shelpet Cavalier King Charles Breeders, near North Walsham, is a hobby breeder but hasn't bred any puppies for two years due to the pandemic.

"Reasonable people were charging around £2,000 but I saw prices as high as £6,000," she said.

Prices of puppies increased significantly due to the arrival of illegal puppy farms.

Prices of puppies increased significantly due to the arrival of illegal puppy farms. - Credit: Clay Hall Kennels

"There were puppies without any health testing or proper documentation at all."

However, Ms Betts is hoping to begin breeding her two Cavaliers again later this year.

"I can't see it going back to pre-lockdown levels so we're going to have to keep up with everyone else to a point," she added.

"I have raised prices a little but not to the levels others are.

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"Genuine breeders are more interested in the welfare of the puppies - they are my family first."

Antonio Skaboullous, of Covehithe Coonhounds near Lowestoft, said he kept his prices the same despite the surge in demand.

"We did have people asking why ours were cheaper," he said.

"We’re not in it for the money – we love our dogs. A lot of people think the dogs are inferior but they're not.

"Those people charging a fortune don’t do the right health tests and follow the regulations. They churn out litter after litter and don’t do the costs involved and then charge a fortune."

The demand for puppies boomed during the first lockdown.

The demand for puppies boomed during the first lockdown. - Credit: Clay Hall Kennels

Gary Fielding, who owns Clay Hall Kennels near Diss, said the boom was down to 'supply and demand'.

"People couldn't have holidays and were off work and at home so had the spare money and time," he said.

"Everyone who was thinking about getting a puppy but had put it off due to circumstance suddenly had an opportunity."

Mr Fielding believed that the market would crash so was "pleasantly surprised" at the increase and decided to raise his prices to deal with the demand.

"The surge in puppy prices was closely followed by a surge in scams, and even dog thefts," Mr Fielding added.

"We had several people come to us after either being caught out, or after being asked for money up front, before even seeing a puppy. It was good for us, which was nice, as people moved more towards buying from a licenced breeding kennels.

"It did get a bit 'wild west' for a while."

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