For many people, the COVID-19 lockdown became the ideal time to get a puppy. Indeed, in many cases, fur babies became the silver bullet for surviving lockdown. However, as restrictions lift, we are seeing a sharp rise in the number of puppies being surrendered.

Furthermore, the high demand for puppies has fuelled the puppy farming industry. Yet only now, as young dogs become sick, are many pet owners realising they fell victim to unethical breeding practices.

Life after lockdown

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Australia, shelters are at bursting point due to the number of animals being surrendered following the 2020 ‘pandemic puppy’ boom.

They explain that being in lockdown led many people to take on the responsibility of a pet. Yet, while some people chose to adopt many more purchased animals from breeders. However, now that we are seeing the vaccination being rolled out and restrictions lifted, animal surrenders are on the increase.

A few months ago the Canberra Times also reported on the issue of puppies being surrendered. The article states, ‘the number of online searches for ‘sell puppy’ or ‘selling a dog’ has spiked with people offloading their now-adolescent pandemic puppy and also trying to recoup the thousands they spent on their overpriced [pooch].’

How the puppy pandemic has fuelled puppy farms

Not only are we seeing an explosion in the number of puppies being surrendered, but sadly we are also witnessing a surge in puppy farming. The demand for dogs during lockdown gave rise to a plethora of puppy mills out to make a quick profit.

However, many pet owners who purchased a puppy from a mill or farm are finding their pups are now developing health issues. This comes as a direct result of the intensive dog breeding practices aimed at breeding as many puppies as possible.

Furthermore, dogs from puppy mills are often kept in poor conditions, which can have a negative effect on their longer-term health and wellbeing.

Unfortunately, many of these unsuspecting buyers cannot cope with an animal that develops physical or psychological issues. As such, puppy farms are further fuelling the number of puppies being surrendered.

Anti-Puppy Farm Legal Clinic

For Victorians, help is available in the form of the Anti-Puppy Farm Legal Clinic. Established by The Animal Law Institute, the Clinic aims to hold unscrupulous breeders accountable for their actions. Via their specialised legal advice service, they are giving Victorian consumers advice about their rights.

While the Clinic is only available to people in Victoria, you can assist by continuing to educate potential pet owners about puppy farms. Be proactive in discussing what people can do to avoid puppy mills when buying a new dog. Here are a few key tips to share.

  • If a seller claims the animal has been vaccinated at a very early age, this is a telltale sign it’s from a puppy farm.
  • Sellers who are offering multiple different breeds of dogs are likely to be operating a puppy farm.
  • If the conditions in which the puppies are being kept are poor, this could be a sign of puppy farming.
  • Avoid buying puppies through online advertisements, particularly Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace. Instead, opt to go through a registered breeder.
  • A genuine breeder will want to be certain he or she is selling pups to a good home. They will ask questions about the potential pet owner’s environment and lifestyle. If no questions are asked, this could be a sign of an unscrupulous breeder.

A helping hand for pet owners

As professionals in the industry, you can encourage potential pet owners to only purchase animals from reliable sources. Alongside, advising of the telltale signs of unethical breeders and sellers, you can assist by offering tips on finding a responsible breeder. Signs of an ethical breeder include:

  • Willingness to talk to you about the type of dog you are looking for, such as its sex and personality
  • Happy to show you the mother and/or father
  • Will provide registration papers
  • Provides a high standard of care for their puppies
  • Will be able and willing to offer references
  • Has a genuine interest in your living conditions and lifestyle in order to find the best forever home for his or her puppies
  • Will be happy to offer ongoing support and information about the breed

Indeed, pet professionals play an important role in encouraging people to do their research before buying a companion animal. They are also well placed to raise awareness of the long-term responsibilities of becoming a pet owner.

Information sources:

Shelters in crisis as people surrender ‘pandemic puppies’. Peta Australia. April 2021. Accessed online via:

Anti-Puppy Farm Legal Clinic. The Animal Law Institute. Accessed online via:

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Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure for the past 12 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals.

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