Pandemic Puppies - Research Confirms the Challenges
The first phase of the Pandemic Puppies 2020 project has led to one publication already, with another two under review.
PACKER, R. M. A., BRAND, C. L., BELSHAW, Z., PEGRAM, C. L., STEVENS, K. B. & O'NEILL, D. G. 2021. Pandemic Puppies: Characterising Motivations and Behaviours of UK Owners Who Purchased Puppies during the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic. Animals, 11, 2500. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/11/9/2500
As we have discussed previously (see 'Pandemic Puppies' and COVID-19: How to Navigate This Complex Issue) - as well as what is seen in articles on welfare and veterinary sites all over the internet - the benefits to humans of pet ownership during the pandemic is tempered by concerns for the animals, as people who were not previously thinking of getting a pet bought them on impulse. They had more time on their hands...but they weren't thinking about what would happen when things changed in the future.
The research team for this article includes IPFD collaborators Rowena Packer and Dan O'Neill. They are continuing with a further survey for UK Residents that can be accessed here.
But this paper gives a clear indication that our concerns were justified, and that the situation for pandemic puppies is unfolding as predicted.
The simple summary states:
"Simple Summary: Widespread media reports suggest that unusually high numbers of the public purchased, or sought to purchase, puppies following the first ‘lockdown’ phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. This study aimed to explore this phenomenon by comparing the reasons why, the methods how, and by whom “Pandemic Puppies” were purchased during this period (from 23 March 2020 - 31 December 2020), and compare these responses with owners who purchased their dog during the same date-period in 2019. Valid responses were analysed from owners of 1148 puppies from 2019 and 4369 Pandemic Puppies. Key differences included Pandemic Puppy owners being more likely to be first-time dog owners, have children in their household, pay a deposit without seeing their puppy, collect their puppy from outside their breeders’ property, see their puppy without their littermates, and pay > £2000 for their puppy, compared with 2019 puppies. Over 1 in 10 Pandemic Puppy owners had not considered purchasing a puppy before the pandemic, while 2 in 5 felt their decision to purchase a puppy had been influenced by the pandemic, most commonly due to having more time to care for a dog. Changes in puppy purchasing during the pandemic raise a range of welfare concerns including relinquishment, behavioural problems and poor health. "
The further statement: "Puppy owners...were less likely to seek out a breeder that performed health testing on their breeding dog(s) or view their puppy in-person, and were more likely to pay a deposit without seeing their puppy" confirms that all the worst practices of puppy acquisition were followed...and we can only wait and see whether this will end up with more challenges for the dogs in terms health and welfare and possible relinquishment.
The pet industry has taken full advantage, and people have been helped. But the challenge to the pets themselves is impacting veterinarians and having wider ramifications (see Trends in the Pet Industry - Interesting or Troubling?). The fate of many of these dogs remains to be seen.
Other relevant information:
- Trends in the Pet Industry - Interesting or Troubling?
- 'Pandemic Puppies' and COVID-19: How to Navigate This Complex Issue
- Your Pandemic Puppy - a book for new puppy or dog owners, breeders, rescues, and veterinarians