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Puppy power

Understanding the purchasing pandemic for puppies

Rebecca Kerr Consultant 10/11/2022

Understanding the purchasing pandemic for puppies

As puppy purchases became part and parcel of pandemic life with rising demand for our furry friends, one might be left wondering what impact this has had on puppy trade and on the pups themselves.

Savanta worked with FOUR PAWS to understand motivations for purchasing ‘pandemic puppies’ and what pet owners’ experiences have been after the fact.

When puppies are purchased online with limited research ahead of purchasing, this can lead to a myriad of risks for both the puppy and owner.

Between January and February 2022, Savanta surveyed 2,250 recent puppy owners – those who acquired a pet since March 2020 – across seven markets, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Reasons for getting a four-legged friend

Nearly three quarters (72%) of recent dog owners surveyed agreed that spending more time at home over the pandemic influenced their purchase, perhaps putting into question whether these recent dog owners remain prepared to own a puppy, especially as life gets back on track in the post-pandemic era.

Solace was another contributing factor. Results demonstrate that 2 in 5 (40%) surveyed purchased a puppy because they wanted to both care for a puppy and wanted company (38%).

Choosing a new pup

The majority of puppies were advertised online, with 2 in 5 (39%) advertised on social media, and a third (33%) on websites or ad-sites.

2 in 5 (40%) recent dog owners surveyed who purchased a particular breed did so because of the dog’s appearance. This scored ahead of lifestyle suitability (31%) and familiarity with the breed (29%).

Compliance and legalities

Worryingly, a quarter (25%) of puppies across all markets were first brought home aged only 6 weeks or younger. This is illegal across many markets: most puppies must be at least 8 weeks or older at the time of adoption.

Furthermore, 1 in 5 (19%) puppies were neither microchipped nor registered, and 16% were microchipped but not registered, which is another legal violation in most countries surveyed.

Preparations for sharing life with a furry friend

When puppies are purchased online with limited research ahead of purchasing, this can lead to a myriad of risks for both the puppy and owner. Most new owners, or first-time owners, will have limited visibility to the housing and health conditions of puppies.

Results demonstrated that 3 in 10 (29%) respondents’ puppies had health problems after purchase. This increases to 4 in 10 (40%) for those who did not place an importance on the correct documentation for the puppy when purchasing (vs. a quarter (24%) who did place importance on correct documentation).

40% of puppies advertised on social media experienced health problems after purchase, rising again to over half (56%) of puppies advertised on Instagram.

Longevity of pet ownership

While the majority (96%) still own their puppy, of those who no longer own their puppy, over a quarter (28%) indicate that they didn’t have enough time for a puppy, likely a result of post-pandemic life. Of those who still own their puppy, 3 in 10 (29%) say that looking after their puppy has been more work than expected, indicating a lack of previous research into what being a dog owner implies.

Summary of findings

In response to Savanta’s findings, FOUR PAWS recommended the following:

  • Improved buyer awareness

    Ensure that buyers are aware of their legal requirements around puppy acquisition and ownership.

  • Increased traceability

    If all sellers of puppies are traceable, they can also be made accountable if something goes wrong.

  • Regulation of the online puppy trade

    Puppy advertisements need to be regulated by classified ad sites using a verification check of seller credentials and dog-related information, providing traceability on all online sellers.

  • Enforcement of animal sale bans on social media

    With the number of people buying puppies advertised on social media on the rise, it is essential that more is done to enforce the ban of animal sales on these sites – particularly Facebook and Instagram.

For further reading, the full report – Pandemic pups: how unprecedented demand fuelled the illegal puppy trade in Europe – is available here

Savanta surveyed 2,284 adults aged 18+ who had bought a puppy in the pandemic (since March 2020) online between 28 January and 18 February 2022. The markets surveyed were the UK (n=505), Germany (n=509), Austria (n=253), Belgium (n=254), Bulgaria (n=256), the Netherlands (n=254) and Switzerland (n=253). Data were not weighted, the sample represented natural fallout.

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