A new study that exposed the extent of the UK online dog puppy trade found that Wales had the greatest per-capita density of puppy advertisements, becoming the puppy farm hub where breeders can operate in rural areas without scrutiny and export puppies to other parts of the UK. Between 0.8 and 1.3 million puppies are sold every year in the UK, with people buying puppies from online vendors at high prices.
The study, published in May 2023 in MDPI under the title “What Patterns in Online Classified Puppy Advertisements Can Tell Us about the Current UK Puppy Trade”, was authored by Katharine Eloise Ross, Fritha Langford, Dominic Pearce, and M. McMillan. They analysed data from 27,081 online puppy sale advertisements from June 2018 to May 2020, focusing on factors such as the location of the advertisement and breed characteristics.
The study mentions that many of the standards used to create popular breeds are associated with conformational disorders (CD), including orthopaedic and joint disorders, skin disease, and respiratory problems in dogs. From all the adverts studied, 66% of advertisements were for just 20 popular breeds, and 48% were for only 10 breeds, suggesting that the puppy industry is subject to trends in breed desirability. The most commonly advertised breeds were French Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Cockapoos, Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Pugs, Dachshunds, Bulldogs, German Shepherds, and Shih Tzus. Nearly 47% of all advertisements focused on breeds that are linked to CD, despite those breeds comprising only 3% of the 559 advertised breeds.
According to the authors, the online puppy trade makes it easier for illegal puppy mill operations to smuggle unvaccinated puppies across borders in abysmal conditions, increasing the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. Animal advocates in the UK are now calling for legislative action to ban online puppy sales and supporting stronger enforcement of the current laws and regulations.