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‘Major dog welfare crisis’ warning after sharp rise in dogs sold online

Written by on 23/01/2021

Experts have warned of a “major dog welfare crisis” following a sharp rise in the number of dogs being sold online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pets4Homes, one of the UK’s largest online pet marketplaces, recorded a 51% increase in demand for puppies since the pandemic began.

A total of 466,601 dogs have been advertised on the site so far, with average prices increasing by 131%.

Rory Cowlam, a vet and ambassador for the RSPCA, told Sky News he expects to see a spike in the number of dogs being abandoned this year as a result.

He said: “Abandonments are going to happen because people have got puppies on a whim.

“They’ve been putting off getting a dog for years and years, they’re suddenly furloughed or they’re at home more and more and they think now’s the right time to get a dog.”

Mr Cowlam added that the rising demand has also led to worrying “increases in puppy theft and, unfortunately, increases in things like puppy farming and irresponsible breeding”.

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The RSPCA has responded to 5,955 reports about abandoned dogs since the start of the pandemic, and seven-month-old Nala is one of them.

Nala the dog
Image: Nala is seven-months-old

She was adopted by Mr Cowlam in October last year after being found abandoned in a heap of rubble.

The charity said she arrived at their Harmsworth Animal Hospital “extremely emaciated”, before staff helped her build her strength, gain weight and build confidence.

They fear that hundreds more cases like Nala’s will be seen as the year progresses.

Dr Sam Gaines, RSPCA
Image: Dr Sam Gaines says the worst could be yet to come for pets

Dr Samantha Gaines, a dog welfare specialist at the RSPCA, said: “We expect that we’ll see a major dog welfare crisis this year.”

She told Sky News: “We’ve probably yet to see the worst to come. We’re now into the third lockdown in England and people still are at home with their puppies that they bought last year, some people will be thinking about getting puppies now.”

“If there is anyone at this moment in time that is thinking about getting a dog or a puppy because they’re at home, we’d urge people to be very very careful and to make sure they do their research.”

Dr Gaines also warned that “now is probably the greatest time ever you’d be caught out by someone”.

Ira Moss, co-founder of All Dogs Matter, told Sky News the online market for dogs has become a “lucrative” and “unscrupulous trade” due to a lack of regulations.

She said: “They’re being multi-sold, so one dog can turnover, can transact five to ten thousand pounds if it’s sold three times. It’s become such a commodity, a dog.

“At some point there’s got to be a saturation point – this can’t carry on forever, it’s just not practical.”

Ms Moss added: “It’s just so sad – we’re a nation of dog lovers and we’ve created this monster.”

 Sky News

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