As the amount of time we spend at home has increased exponentially over the past year, the pandemic has had an unexpected side effect, increasing puppy prices. The demand to have a furry friend at home with us to keep us company led to a surge in demand for dogs, which was met with a steep increase in prices.
There were many reasons that led to the increased demand for puppies during the pandemic. As well as being lonely at home and wanting a constant companion through the lockdown that many times had no specific end in sight, other people had thought about getting a puppy for a while. For these potential dog owners the increased time spent indoors at home allowed them the opportunity to feel ready for the responsibility of a pet. Especially in the first few months of puppyhood most owners want to be around for their dog to get them acquainted to new environments, and the lockdowns provided the perfect opportunity for this.
With the demand for dogs so high, shelters were being cleaned out and breeds saw the opportunity that had arisen and subsequently raised their prices to meet the pent-up demand. Some people selling dogs even resorted to using scams to swindle people out of their money with the Australian consumer watchdog reporting people had been put $1.6 million out of pocket over the course of 2020.
Although purebred “designer dogs” have always been on the pricier side, over the course of the pandemic prices reached an eye watering level with some dogs selling for $10,000 each. A large chunk of these increased prices came from the sale of smaller breed dogs, such as French bulldogs, pugs, and cavadoodles. This may be because of their perceived lower maintenance in comparison to larger breeds, hence a broader reach in popularity.
During 2019 before the pandemic hit, Australians spent roughly $275 million on pedigree dogs, and although there is no concrete figure on what the amount was during 2020, it was undeniably a hefty sum more than that. Evidencing this is the increase in prices for certain breeds. Golden Retriever puppies pre pandemic were selling for roughly $3,000, however are now fetching up to $6,000. This upwards trend in prices was true for deposits also, with the average cost of deposits going from a reasonable $250, to over three times the cost at $1,000.
The increasing reports of puppy scams between January 1 and October 2020 show the magnitude of this problem, with Scamwatch having received 1,627 reports of puppy scams which led to more than $1.6 million in losses for would be dog owners. This number of scams is over four times higher than the amount reported in 2019.
This trend of increasing prices and demand for pets was not exclusive to Australia. In the UK during the early stages of the pandemic lockdowns in April and early May, there were roughly 400 buyers for every one pet advertised. When the harsh lockdowns eased up, demand also slowed with the number of buyers per pet falling to around 200 buyers per pet advertised.
In another attempt by dodgy breeders to make some extra cash, it has been reported that some dog sellers would offer puppies for sale with a non-refundable deposit. These deposits could be taken as a booking fee or holding fee, however if the buyer decided not to go ahead with the purchase of the puppy, the large sum of money would not be refunded.
As lockdowns have eased nationwide and people are gradually adjusting to the “new normal” that the pandemic has presented us with, there are dogs back in shelters and rescues ready to be adopted once again. Of course, most of these dogs are not the designer breed dogs that are wildly popular, but they still need loving homes and can make fantastic pets. It’s important that consumers think about where their puppy is coming from and what the most ethical decision is regarding their choice of how and where to obtain a puppy. This has multiple benefits of helping to support ethical pet suppliers and ensuring the safe conditions of future dogs, as well as generally being more affordable.