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The coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in pet purchases in the UK, with many desperate for animal companionship to help them cope with grief, loneliness and anxiety in these exceptional times.
With millions of Britons working from home, charities have noticed a huge spike in demand for so-called “pandemic puppies” or “quarantine kittens”.
Google searches for “buy a puppy” rose by 120% after the announcement of lockdown on March 23, according to data from Propellernet.
Research conducted by the animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS found as many as 4,000 adverts for dogs and puppies on just Gumtree and Pets4Home alone during the peak of lockdown.
Owen Sharp, chief executive of Dogs Trust, said although there were no exact figures of dog registration, “the evidence does point to the fact that a lot more people have been getting dogs than usual”.
With the rise in demand and prices, his charity is concerned people have increasingly turned to unregistered puppy smuggling or unregistered puppy farmers.
“We have seen quite a lot of puppy smuggling from eastern Europe,” he told HuffPost UK.
Since the beginning of lockdown, the charity has rescued dozens of dogs that were illegally imported into the UK from central and eastern Europe, with an estimated street value of £80,000.
In one case, six “terrified” underage puppies were found covered in oil in the back of a van at Dover port, having been imported from Romania.
The puppies were described by the charity as being in “an appalling condition, drenched in oil and suffering from diarrhoea.”
Dogs Trust has found puppies transported in similarly horrific conditions – including in a wicker basket with just cling film over the top.
Puppy smuggling isn’t just illegal – it’s also a cruel trade that puts both the mother and her litter through a long and arduous journey, often with little to...