Breeders fear puppy prices 'will never go down' after pandemic demand

The RSPCA is reporting a dramatic increase in complaints against puppy farms Picture: GETTY IMAGES/i

Interest in pets soared in lockdown as home working made dog ownership in particular a possibility. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Demand for puppies has eased around the region since lockdown, breeders say, but the clamour for - and prices of - a canine companion remain high.

Interest in pets soared over the first lockdown and spiked again before Christmas, with working from home making dog ownership a possibility for more people.

It led to concerns over unscrupulous sellers and potential puppy health problems - and what would happen to the pets once office working returned.

Michaela Betts, who runs Shelpet Cavalier King Charles Breeders in Trunch, near North Walsham, has not bred any puppies for two years due to coronavirus. 

She said: "In lockdown people wanted to get a puppy, but a lot of unscrupulous breeders were cashing in, and they pushed prices up, charging silly money."

She said it now costs around £2,000 for a cavalier, while before the pandemic it was £950. 

"Reasonable people are charging around £2,000, but puppy farms are charging from £3,000 to £5,000," she said. "And puppies are not coming with any health testing at all.

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"I keep warning people, please don’t buy a puppy in lockdown, it’s not fair on the puppy and your neighbours."

puppy with harness on

Demand for puppies soared in lockdown. - Credit: ProjectB/Getty Images

Ms Betts said she thinks the prices "will never go down again".

Antonio Skaboullous, of Covehithe Coonhounds near Lowestoft, said: "During lockdown, emails were coming in left, right and centre, with people wanting puppies, but we made a point of not breeding.

"We didn't want people coming in and out during lockdown looking at puppies.

"We were getting so many emails from people who had no idea what the breed was, whose kids wanted a puppy. We didn't want to be adding to the puppy craze."

Demand is not as high as this time last year but it is still "pretty high", according to Mr Skaboullous.

Another dog breeder, who did not want to be named, said: “Demand is slightly less now but last year was terrible.

"I don’t sell to lockdown people. You can tell, they’re very needy. 

“I had over 900 enquiries last year, people in London living in flats. I said you’ve got to be kidding."

Bagdat Ozarslan, founder of Rescuing European Animals in Need (REAN), based near Dereham, said their applications rose by around 500pc during lockdown.

"We were being careful not to rehome with people who were not taking into consideration what their situations might be after lockdown. We asked what their working hours were like before lockdown," she said.

"Our applications went up by around 500pc during lockdown. We were getting 100 messages a day, compared to 20 before. 

"We have been so selective. When people say 'we are working from home for the foreseeable', that is no good. We have only given dogs to people who were working at home prior to lockdown." 

Ebony Smith's two cockapoos

Ebony Smith said her new pets have changed her life. - Credit: submitted

In March, Ebony Smith, from Yarmouth, bought two cockapoos from separate litters and noticed an immediate difference in price.

"My first dog was £2,500 and the other was £1,800," Miss Smith said.

"I would say dogs are more expensive because of the pandemic, definitely."

Despite the prices, Miss Smith said her new pets have "massively" changed her life.

"They've given me a reason to get out and walk everyday," she said.

"Training two puppies at once was stressful.

"But it wasn't too different once restrictions were lifted though."

Canine Aid Rescue and Ethology (CARE) Dog Rescue, a Norfolk family-run, non-profit organisation dedicated to the rescue and rehoming of dogs, said it hadn't noticed a rise of homeless dogs in the area during the pandemic.

"Our suspicion is that dogs are so high in price at the moment, that people are selling rather than putting their old pets up for adoption," Al Matherne, from CARE, said.

Mr Matherne added that the Gorleston branch of CARE has rescued approximately 100 dogs in the past year. Previously, it had rescued three or four dogs a week.

Mr Matherne agreed that prices for dogs have increased over the pandemic with some desirable breeds being well over £2,000.

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