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Puppies in a Pandemic - Update

Our #puppiesinapandemic campaign continues to gain support.

We are very pleased that one leading website, which hosts adverts for the sale of pets, is taking proactive action to stamp down on illegal sales and we eagerly await the changes to their platform. 

In 2021, there is a glimmer of hope that many human freedoms will return, but our thoughts are also with the imprisoned breeding dogs. Puppy farmers have proved that they are willing to exploit any opportunity, even a global pandemic, to profit from the sale of dogs.

At the height of lockdown in 2020, reports to the Naturewatch Foundation puppy farming hotline, sadly doubled.

Following a spate of celebrities making rash and widely publicised puppy purchases, during the initial stage of lockdown, we were prepared for the knock-on effect amongst the dog loving public. We were saddened, but not surprised, by the vast increase in reports of dodgy puppy dealing and inflated prices.

Naturewatch Foundation responded by recommending that people wait until after the pandemic to introduce a new furry forever friend to their life. Hundreds of people joined in our e-action writing to three well known websites that host adverts for puppies – Gumtree, Pets4Homes and Preloved. Thank you if you have taken part.

In the light of the government's advice regarding social distancing, we asked the websites to temporarily stop hosting all adverts for puppies and kittens during the pandemic.

How did the sellng websites respond?

The websites responded to our action with improved guidance to buyers and they looked to the government for further advice. Sadly, they continued to host the adverts, but stressed greater levels of scrutiny for illegal ads. The Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG) - made up of influential organisations who advise the government on behalf of the sector - also updated their guidance for buyers not to pay deposits for unseen pets.

The strictest lockdown measures quite rightly prevented people travelling and spreading the virus.

Our concerns

  • Lockdown made it impossible to make the essential trip to view a puppy at the place it was bred, and see the puppy interacting with its mum.
  • We were also concerned that lockdown would not provide the right conditions to socialise highly active puppies.
  • Finally, we were, and continue to be, worried for the future of confused dogs suddenly alone (or even abandoned), once their owners return to the workplace.

An invitation to puppy farmers and scammers

During lockdown, and against all previously advertised guidance, some buyers did purchase puppies unseen and at inflated prices, some even with courier service. This laxity was an open door to greedy puppy farmers, who care little for the welfare of the pups or their imprisoned mums.

Scammers also took advantage in the surge for pet companionship, posting adverts and taking payment for dogs that did not exist, or who were not theirs to sell.

Thousands of puppies are born on cruel puppy farms here in the UK. Breeding dogs are exploited again and again for quick profit, with some puppies carrying disease and unforeseen behavioural issues, developed after being separated from their mums far too early. Puppy farmers take care to hide the cruelty of these ‘puppy factories’.

Reports of dog theft have also spiralled during the pandemic. Lockdown demand for furry friends has sent prices soaring, with some criminally minded thinking little of stealing other people’s dogs to profit from the pandemic. The number of dogs imported for sale in the UK has also risen dramatically.

Naturewatch Foundation's priority is animal welfare.

Report it!

If you suspect anyone is either involved in illegal puppy farming or breaching animal welfare standards in the breeding of dogs, please contact our Investigations Team, in strictest confidence, at or 07392 185 373.

We will continue to campaign against puppy farming and the abuse of animals.

More information on how to avoid puppy farmers is available here, or at - we are united in the fight against the illegal puppy trade.

Adopt, don't shop

There are thousands of dogs waiting in animal shelters in the UK! Please consider giving a home to a dog waiting for adoption. Getting a puppy is a HUGE decision. They require a lot of training, devotion and exercise. In any circumstance, it’s vitally important to do lots of research about the type of dog you want and be aware of the long-term costs.

If you are intent on buying a puppy, our guide may help.

How to find a licensed puppy breeder, not a puppy farmer

  1. A responsible breeder must have a license from the local council if they are breeding and selling pets as a business (to make a profit).
  2. Never agree to meet the breeder halfway or arrange for the puppy to be delivered to you - always make sure you visit the puppy more than once in the place where it was bred. Never be rushed into a purchase.
  3. Make sure you see the puppy with its mum. Ask lots of questions about the mother’s health, background and personality.
  4. Where vaccinations and/or microchipping have been claimed by the breeder, ask to see the records of these.
  5. Ask the breeder to provide you with a completed Puppy Contract so that you have time to review it and seek a vet’s advice if necessary, before committing to purchase. 

If the deal or price is too good to be true, walk away and report your concerns.

If you buy a puppy from an illegal puppy farm, another profitable pup will soon take its place.

June 2021