Red flags to watch for when adopting a pet during the pandemic

Nadine Carroll
·4-min read

An increasing number of Australians are adding furry friends to their family during the coronavirus pandemic. But if you’re not careful, you could unknowingly be getting a pet with lifelong health and behavioural problems.

Vanessa King thought she was doing the right thing when she bought two rottweiler puppies from an online marketplace linked to a pet store and a breeder.

“I thought coming from a pet shop they, you know, have guidelines that they had to follow and that was a good thing,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

Ms King’s new puppies were from a puppy farm, an intense breeding facility where animals are often kept in inhumane conditions purely to churn out as many litters as possible.

puppy farming in australia
Zeus was unknowingly bought from a puppy farm and will have life long health conditions. Source: Yahoo News Australia

Life long damage from puppy farms

“If you’re buying a puppy online you can almost guarantee that you’re buying a puppy from a puppy farm,” Emma Hurst, Member of the NSW Legislative Council representing the Animal Justice Party, told Yahoo News.

Ms Hurst explained that litters from puppy farms are inundated with behavioural and health problems.

“They’re being born into dirty, squalid conditions. A lot of these animals come out and they’ve got a range of diseases and infections,” she said.

Ms King’s puppies began to show signs of serious health problems such as hip dysplasia, hernias, abscesses, ear mites and parvovirus which has so far cost the pet owners over $5000 in vet bills and heartbreak when one of the puppies, Zeus, almost died.

“In terms of the parvovirus, with Zeus I think it’s going to be an ongoing thing for the rest of his life, it’s done too much damage. It attacks the intestines, it eats away at their intestines and then it can go right into their bone marrow,” she explained.

“He had a blood transfusion, he had a plasma transfusion. That’s how sick he was, he nearly died”.

What to look for if you’re buying a puppy

Ms Hurst said the most important thing when buying a pet is to visit the breeder’s home to check the conditions and how the mother dog is interacting with her puppies.

“If you’re going to buy from a breeder you should always be able to come and see the home, come and meet the mother, and see what the mother’s temperament is like,” Ms Hurst said.

Making sure a breeder is registered is something Ms King wishes she had done.

“If I had known more, I would never have gone to a pet shop. Anyone I meet I will tell them don’t ever buy them from a pet shop, go to a breeder that’s registered... because you can be a breeder and not be registered so that’s not even a protection,” she cautions.

Adopt don’t shop

Ms Hurst urges people considering a new pet to look at adoption first as the pandemic has increased the numbers of dogs surrendered to shelters and dumped.

“Because we’ve had this pandemic and now that lockdowns are lifting, we’re seeing an increase in the number of dogs that are being dumped,” Ms Hurst told Yahoo.

“So if people are looking for a dog we highly recommend they go and have a look at pounds, shelters, rescue groups as their number one before they would look into breeding.”

buying a dog during the coronavirus pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has increased the numbers of dogs surrendered to shelters and being dumped. Source: Getty

Ms Hurst is currently campaigning to introduce tougher laws against puppy farming, warning that NSW could “very quickly become the hub of puppy farming in Australia”.

“If you think you’ve potentially bought an animal from a puppy farm or if you hear about a puppy farm potentially in your area, it’s really important to alert the authorities,” she said.

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