Charity boss warns puppy boom has turned dogs into 'a commodity'

All Dogs Matter fundraiser

A smiley canine at a previous All Dogs Matter fundraiser in north London - Credit: Christiana Hinds

With dog-ownership rocketing around the country - and it none-more-visible than on Hampstead Heath - a local animal charity is warning people not to buy dogs at extortionate prices online.

Ira Moss - from East Finchley animal rescue and rehoming charity All Dogs Matter, the organisation behind the usually annual Pup Idol event on the Heath - told the Ham&High how prospective dog owners should wait until prices fell, so to avoid fuelling online dog sales which can put animal welfare at risk.

All Dogs Matter's founder Ira Moss

All Dogs Matter's founder Ira Moss - Credit: All Dogs Matter

Ira said: "What's happened is everyone wanted a dog during lockdown and it's created this bubble and prices have really gone up. Dogs have become a commodity now - the cost going up and up. 

"You can easily find dogs online for even £5,000. Because people are paying so much, it can be that people are keeping lost dogs rather than taking to a charity. Often these dogs are being sold several times before they end up in a shelter."

She said that when looking to get a dog, people should be careful not to prop up potentially criminal enterprises.

"People aren't really thinking of the long-term impact on the dogs," she said. "It's great in some ways for the pet, but there's a dark side - we have made dogs a commodity."

Ira said during the pandemic fewer dogs than usual were being brought to the charity for rehoming.

A pair of happy hounds on the 2019 All Dogs Matter Valentine's Day walk on Hampstead Heath

A pair of happy hounds on the 2019 All Dogs Matter Valentine's Day walk on Hampstead Heath - Credit: All Dogs Matter

"Normally we rehome around 3 to 400 dogs a year. This year it's gone down and starkly. It surely can't be that everyone who's bought a dog has kept a dog," she said. 

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"And when dogs do come in to us they are going out much quicker."

She said the boom in dog ownership was benefitting rogue breeders looking to profit by cutting welfare corners.

All Dogs Matter is not the only organisation urging pet buyers to be responsible. The Kennel Club has also warned people to be careful when buying dogs and to watch out for rogue breeders. 

Dr Ed Hayes, the charity's head of policy, said: “Despite Government’s recent crack-down on third-party sales via Lucy’s Law, puppy farmers can still sell directly to the public online, and we have no doubt that they will exploit confusion around pandemic restrictions and the fact that Covid-19 guidance at one point allowed puppy deliveries.”

Ira said that the much-vaunted "Lucy's Law", designed to prevent puppy farming, had "unfortunately come in at the worst time". She said the legislation was also "not easily enforced at all".

Dr Hayes said prospective pet owners should look to make sure they saw a puppy interacting with its mother in person in a safe and secure environment; never to accept "home-delivery" of puppies; and to never pay a deposit up-front for a dog without seeing it first. 

Ira continued: "Animals should not be able to be sold or given away online, full stop. Dogs can be dangerous, you really shouldn't be allowed to just pass a dog or a cat around on the internet. 

"I know some people are trying to stop online dog selling." 

Ira said All Dogs Matter would be looking to resume holding some outdoor events on the Heath and in the local area, as lockdown easing continued.

"As a small local charity we are finding it much harder to fundraise," she said. "We are hoping we will able to get back on the Heath soon."

She emphasised it was vital prospective dog owners understood the darker side of buying a pet. 

Lassie, a dog All Dogs Matter have looked after in north London this year

Lassie, a dog All Dogs Matter have looked after in north London this year - Credit: All Dogs Matter

"People don't tend to think about puppy farms, but they need to think about what's going on behind the scenes when they look to buy a dog. I think people sometimes don't want to believe it," she said.

"I do think people in our area are pretty good, they'd rather adopt than buy, that's key."