Puppy prices at all-time high since lockdown as sellers cash in

New research from Dogs Trust has revealed that prices for some of the UK’s most desirable dog breeds peaked in October, with the costs for some dogs increasing month on month since lockdown began.

These breeds are among those most likely to be illegally imported into the country via puppy smuggling, a cruel practice that the leading dog welfare charity has fought against for several years.

The research comes as demand for dogs is also at an all-time high, with Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ increasing by 115% since before lockdown was announced on 23 March.

The asking price for several of the UK’s most sought after breeds – Chow Chows, Dachshunds, Pugs, French Bulldogs and English Bulldogs, which are also some of those most often smuggled into the country - has shot up since lockdown began in March. The data reveals the average price increased by(2):

  • 134% for Chow Chows – £2,618 in October compared to £1,119 in March
  • 78% for Pugs - £1220 in October compared to £684 in March
  • 73% for Dachshunds - £1,681 in October compared to £973 in March
  • 70% for French Bulldogs – £2,128 in October compared to £1,251 in March
  • 49% for English Bulldogs – £2,436 in October compared to £1,637 in March

We also reviewed advertisements on some of the UK’s largest classified websites every month since lockdown began. It found that the volume of advertisements for Chow Chows, Dachshunds, Pugs, English Bulldogs and French Bulldogs has increased on average by 71% from March – October.

Among the breeds where there has been an increase in online adverts and prices for pups has risen significantly are Beagles. The average cost for a Beagle puppy online increased by 151% to £1,414 in October compared to £563 in March. Adverts for beagles online have also increased by 145% from March – October. The charity regularly rescues puppies that have been illegally imported into the UK through its Puppy Pilot* scheme. ‘Illegal Beagles’ Biscuit, Bandit, Brian and Boo are just four examples of the over 100 illegally imported puppies rescued through the scheme since lockdown.

These four ‘illegal Beagle’ puppies were found in the back of an abandoned vehicle on a hot September day in London. The van had a strong smell emanating from it after a member of the public reported it. At eight weeks old, the puppies each weighed just 2kg when they were seized from the vehicle and were all hungry and dehydrated. After seeing a veterinary surgeon, they were brought into Dogs Trust’s care and are now being looked after by their team of expert staff.

Dogs Trust believes these pups are just some of the latest victims of the puppy smuggling trade, having been illegally imported to be sold onto prospective buyers here in the UK.

We are warning the public how to avoid being ripped off by deceitful dealers or ‘Dogfished’, at a time when demand and prices for dogs in the UK has never been higher and more puppies continue to be illegally imported to the country to meet that demand.

Dogs Trust’s Veterinary Director Paula Boyden said:

"Given that the prices for pups have shot up significantly in recent months, it is no wonder criminals are continuing to cash in on such a lucrative market – but pups like Biscuit, Bandit, Brian and Boo pay the real price. It’s unsurprising that the priciest dogs are desirable breeds and those that we so often see being illegally imported into the country.

"We have rescued many dogs like these four illegal beagles, which have been transported here in appalling conditions, destined to be sold on to unsuspecting dog lovers. Luckily, we were there to change the tale for Biscuit, Bandit, Brian and Boo but there has never been a more urgent need for the Government to act now to end this cruel trade.

"Action needs to be taken immediately, as too many puppies are suffering at the hands of cruel traders and too many dog lovers are being left to pick up the pieces. Every day of Government delay leads to preventable suffering for puppies and dogs."

What Dogs Trust is calling for:

For over six years we have been calling on Government to help put an end to puppy smuggling after exposing this abhorrent trade. Current legislation is not fit for purpose. We need urgent action to cut these markets off at the source and close the loopholes which put innocent puppies at risk.

With the end of the Brexit transition period on the horizon, the time is now for Government to act. They must:

  • Raise the minimum age for puppies to be imported into the UK to six months to help make them less desirable. (3)
  • Bring in tougher penalties for smuggling pups to deter deceitful sellers. Only a handful of cases have ever been prosecuted and you can get a longer sentence for smuggling cigarettes than you can for smuggling puppies.

To find out more about our Puppy Smuggling work, visit https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/news-events/issues-campaigns/puppy-smuggling/.

1. According to data from Propellernet
2. Tech4Pets data, collected between March 2020 and Oct 2020
3. Dogs Trust supports reintroducing a requirement for a rabies blood (titre) test before entry into the UK, together with a wait period post-vaccination which is in line with the incubation period of rabies. This means that the age at which puppies could legally enter the UK would be increased to six months.