After analysing 7,545 responses, equating to 670,950 individual pieces of data, researchers at the Royal Veterinary College have published the first scientific paper from their pandemic puppies study.
The research, carried out to characterise and understand the 2020 COVID-19 puppy-buying phenomenon in the UK, compared the motivations and behaviours of owners who purchased puppies in 2020 to those who bought in 2019.
Data from the nationwide study — the largest ever undertaken, involving 5,517 puppies — confirmed soaring prices, with the average cost of a puppy spiralling from £995 in 2019 to £1,550 in 2020 — a rise of 55.8 per cent.
The Animal Welfare Foundation funded research revealed that one in 10 puppy owners hadn’t considered buying
a dog before lockdown, while two in five felt the pandemic influenced their decision.
Worryingly, the results also showed that 2020 puppy buyers were less likely to search for a breeder who performed health tests, view their puppy in person before handing over money, or see the environment their puppy was raised in.
Compared to 2019 owners, pandemic puppy purchasers were also more likely to be first-time dog owners, have children in the household, pay a deposit before seeing their puppy, and meet their puppy without any littermates.
The survey highlights how these buying behaviours unwittingly increased the risk to canine health and welfare by encouraging puppy farmers and scammers.
“This study reveals the debt we owe to dogs for getting so many of us through the pandemic,” explained senior lecturer in companion animal epidemiology at the RVC and the paper’s co-author Dr Dan O’Neill, who worked with doctors Rowena Packer, Claire Brand, Camilla Pegram, and Zoe Belshaw to capture the data.
“But it also suggests that a terrible price is being paid by many dogs from our choices on which breed to buy, our long-term commitment to the dog, and even whether we can afford to look after it. It reminds us to stop and think about life from the dog’s perspective too.”
Following the success of these findings, and funding from Battersea, further surveys following the lives of pandemic puppies over a longer period are in the pipeline.