Puppy shortage amid COVID leads to steep rise in animal thefts

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Man’s best friend has been in high demand amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

As many have turned to the comforts that only a dog can provide while in quarantine, it has made it much harder for people to adopt pets in the United States and around the world.

According to Newsweek, the situation is particularly dire in the United Kingdom, where a puppy shortage is leading to soaring prices, a rise in the illegal puppy trade, and the number of animals being stolen.

"They're not the only animal being used but they are high on the list that's driven the price up of dogs," said Wayne May, coordinator at a lost and found dog service in the U.K. "We are selling out and what we're experiencing now is illegal puppy breeders bringing in puppies from abroad with various diseases and also a high rise in people's dogs being stolen and they are being stolen for breeding."

May said there’s been a 70% rise in reports of stolen animals, while breeders have been demanding previously unheard of prices for a single pup.

"The prices I've actually seen are £5000 to £7000 ($6,500 to $9,200) but I have heard up to £11,000 ($14,492) being paid for a puppy,” May added.

The rise in the illegal puppy trade is especially concerning for health reasons.

"We are very concerned about the importation of puppies or dogs that are coming in from other countries,"  said Dr. Sam Gaines, head of companion animals Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). "The main reason being is that we just don't know what conditions those dogs are being bred in and what they're then having to endure with the very long journey to actually get into the U.K.”

Gaines added: "You end up sadly with quite a few puppies that are coming in who have got fleas already but also because of the stress of the environment that they've been bred in and raised in and because of the journey they are more likely to be susceptible to behavior problems when they grow up as well."

Despite the increased demand for pets, activists also fear there may eventually be a rise in animal abandonment once COVID restrictions are eased and people return to work.

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