What pets are illegal in the UK?

Run on pets: Corona came across dogs

Feelings, attention, caressing, physical closeness - all of this has fallen by the wayside in the corona pandemic for a year. So many people seek friendship and comfort in pets. Since the first lockdown there has been a run on pets, whether kittens, puppies or small animals.

Little has changed about that to this day. "The demand from our breeders is still extremely high," says Udo Kopernik, press spokesman for the Association for the German Canine Industry (VDH) of DW. The association's website, on which breeders can announce when their animals are expecting puppies, is always empty, according to Kopernik. "If you can, there are supposedly no puppies." In truth, many breeders would no longer announce when their bitches are pregnant because they no longer want to be overwhelmed by inquiries. Some would even have taken their website offline.

Cats are even more popular than dogs

One of the few who has announced a litter on the VDH's online site is Josefine Munke. She breeds Alaskan Malamute, a breed of sled dog. "We always have a relatively large number of inquiries because it is a very rare breed," she told DW. "But right now it defies description." The level of inquiries is also different than usual, says Munke. "There are a lot of people who want a puppy quickly and who don't get much information. That certainly gives all breeders a stomachache at the moment."

Demand drives prices

Some future dog owners could also have stomach pains, because the high demand is reflected in the prices for puppies. "They have risen by about a third," says Kopernick. Nevertheless, those who get a chance at all can consider themselves lucky.

"Biete dachshund puppies" - this ad on Ebay classifieds has over 15,000 hits after just a few minutes. Even more than 3000 people were interested in the purebred Pekingese puppy after just ten minutes. The buyers not only have to react very quickly, but also have to be lucky enough to be selected from the crowd of applicants. Not everyone can afford to be picky. A young woman, for example, who takes a young boxer for a walk in the Eifel, says that she actually doesn't like boxers, but that he was the only puppy she could get.

Illegal imports are increasing

Since the local breeders can no longer meet the high demand for puppies, demand and high prices attract new suppliers to the market. Even before Corona, a relatively large number of animals came from abroad: a good 20 percent of the dogs and over five percent of the cats. This was the result of the market research study "Dogs and cats (holders) 2018" by the insurer AGILA.

The current supply gap is also being filled by imports, some of which are illegal. "Most of the dogs that are sold here come from Southeastern Europe, Romania, Hungary or Bulgaria," says Kopernick. In the meantime, there is also an increasing number of hobby imports, for example when a foreign worker packs a few puppies on home leave to sell them here.

Such imports often do not comply with the rules. Mike Ruckelshaus from TASSO - the animal welfare organization runs Europe's largest pet registry - warns about the illegal online puppy trade: "Almost all animals are sick, separated from their mother far too early, not vaccinated and often do not survive the first few months of life." Before the corona pandemic, such illegal imports would have appeared mainly close to the border, says Kopernick. Now there are all over Germany. The Animal Welfare Association also complains that the illegal animal trade is flourishing in Germany as a result of Corona.

Puppies in a vehicle stopped by investigators

Many of these dogs are confiscated and then nursed to animal shelters for weeks. Buyers can pick up the surviving puppies that have been vaccinated and quarantined there. Although they have to bear the costs incurred, they would usually get them back due to the high prices, says Kopernick. For the animal shelters, on the other hand, the puppies are a great burden.

Desperate search for the animal friend

TASSO's pet register provides an indication of how much the demand for dogs has increased. Around half of the German dogs are listed in theirs. A slight increase in registration numbers is not uncommon as the animal welfare organization is growing from year to year. While this increase is usually around four percent on an annual average, it was eight percent last year.

Not only dogs seem to delight people's hearts. Compared to the previous year, there were a million more dogs, cats, small mammals and ornamental birds in German households in 2020 - a total of almost 35 million animals - not counting ornamental fish and terrarium animals. This was the result of a survey carried out by the market research institute Skopos at the beginning of the second lockdown in autumn 2020 for the Industry Association for Pet Supplies (IVH) and the Central Association of German Zoological Companies (ZZF).

Pets as an economic factor

Pets also promote economic growth: "For many people, pets are family members and pet owners are willing to spend money on their health," said Norbert Holtherich, President of the ZFF. Food and accessories, veterinarians, insurance, animal shelters, dog tax - in total, pets generated sales of over 10 billion euros in Germany in 2018, according to the pet study by Renate Ohr, professor at the University of Göttingen.

The corona pandemic has probably further increased these sales. Accordingly, Fressnapf, Germany's market leader in pet supplies, achieved the greatest absolute sales growth in the company's history last year. And the online retailer Zooplus raised its forecast three times and most recently expected sales of around 1.8 billion euros.

Dog theft warning in the UK

There is a high demand for animal friends not only in Germany. In other countries such as Switzerland or France, too, more people want a pet. There are also increasing numbers of illegal dog imports in Great Britain.

The British are considered great dog lovers

At the same time, the number of thefts is also increasing. According to the DogLost organization, the number of dog thefts has increased by around 250 percent since March 2020. She maintains an online database that owners can use to search for their missing dogs.

"I've been doing this for 30 years now, and 2020 was the worst year yet," says Wayne May of DogLost. "Before the pandemic, it was opportunity theft," May said. "That all changed last year. We now have organized gangs that steal dogs in order to breed with them or to collect a reward or a ransom."