Warnings over theft and scams after fourfold rise in puppy prices

Charity urges public not to pay over the odds as demand outstrips supply during lockdown

Two-year-old dachshund Frank, surrendered to Dogs Trust by a family who bought him for €1,300 believing him to be three months old. Photograph: Fran Veale

Two-year-old dachshund Frank, surrendered to Dogs Trust by a family who bought him for €1,300 believing him to be three months old. Photograph: Fran Veale

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Ireland’s largest dog charity has warned the public about paying over the odds for puppies during the lockdown.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen huge increases in the price of puppies as people scramble to buy dogs for company.

Escalating prices have led to a warning by An Garda Síochána to pet owners that they should take care if they have high-value dogs as there has been an increase in thefts.

Gardaí have also warned the public not to buy puppies from owners they cannot trace.

Demand has far outstripped supply, leading to puppy inflation. A pedigree Labrador pup that cost €500 before the lockdown is selling for €2,000 now. Similarly designer crossbreeds such as the cockapoo or the labradoodle, which sold for €350 before the lockdown are now making €2,000-€2,700, and even mongrel pups, which had no value before the lockdown, are selling for €250, Dogs Trust Ireland said.

It has warned the public about the dangers of being “dogfished” by unscrupulous “doggy dealers” who are putting profits before the welfare of the dogs they are selling.

Cautionary tale

The warning follows an incident when an Irish family bought what they thought was a three-month-old dachshund pup that had been advertised for €1,300 on a well-known online selling platform.

When they arrived to collect the puppy, he looked considerably older than the online photo, but they were told the advertisement was a few months old and the dog was now six months.

He turned out to be at least two. Because he was a fearful dog, it was too late to house-train him and he had to be surrendered to the Dogs Trust.

Recent research carried out by the charity revealed that 20 per cent of people who purchased a dog during lockdown in Ireland collected their dog on the same day they first inquired about the animal, highlighting a “click and collect” culture around the sale of dogs.

Dogs Trust Ireland also discovered that 82 per cent of people who bought dogs during this time paid in cash and 34 per cent of dogs were not microchipped, which is not only illegal but can leave the seller totally untraceable and unaccountable should your puppy fall ill.

One woman, who bought a puppy for €2,000 in cash and asked to remain anonymous, said there were five other cars waiting at the dog-breeding establishment to buy dogs.

“The puppy we bought from this ‘breeder’ was extremely malnourished and frightened. The puppy could barely walk or stand on her legs. Our vet believed this was probably a result of never being handled or out of a small cage,” she said.

“She was riddled with worms. We were not permitted to see the mother.”

Inflated prices

Dogs Trust chief executive Becky Bristow says the problem has not relented as the lockdown has eased because demand is still high.

She has urged the public not to buy puppies at inflated prices as there is likely to be a dramatic drop in price as schools and officer workers return.

Separately, gardaí have told the public not to disclose to strangers that they have a dog and not to be tempted to leave their dogs tied up outside a shop or other public spaces.

In one incident last week, thieves broke into a locked shed in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, and stole a Springer Spaniel and her seven pups. The mother, Daisy, was later recovered in Dublin, having had the microchip cut from her neck. The four female and three male pups are still missing. They are eight weeks old.

Springer Spaniel pubs are selling for €1,000 on online platforms at present.

Their owner, Rachel Doyle, told RTÉ’s Liveline she was convinced the puppies were being stolen for resale.