The biggest puppy crisis animal welfare chiefs have ever seen is expected in April when the furlough scheme ends, one charity has warned.
Young dogs given away to rescue centres will be around ten months old and anxious about being separated from their owners for the first time after more than a year of them working from home.
There is usually a wave of dogs handed into rescue centres after Christmas when new owners decide their lifestyles are not compatible or it is too much work – but it is expected to be worse due to the dogs being older.
Crooks have exacerbated the puppy crisis with blackmarket breeding as the value soared during lockdown and buyers being conned into buying sick dogs.
Responsible breeders should be asking more questions than the buyer, according to welfare charity the Scottish SPCA which issued a stark warning.
SPCA Chief Superintendent, Mike Flynn, said: "The end of furlough will be similar to what we see at the end of every Christmas.
"During the holidays, people buy animals and it seems like a good idea at the time.
"Then, when they're due to go back to work that's when all of the problems start coming to the surface.
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"When the first lockdown happened in March, we advised people not to get pets during this time solely because they would only be available for them at that moment in time.
"We advised only to get pets if it would suit your lifestyle in the long-run – in other words when you return to work and the kids go back to school.
"As opposed to the normal Christmas crisis, the lockdown is probably causing an even bigger problem in the fact that there will be pups that are now coming up to ten-months-old.
"They will have never, ever known their house without their owner being there.
"The separation anxiety and all of these other behavioural issues that normally happen in young dogs after Christmas will be more prevalent given the fact it'll now be an adult dog that's never known anything different.
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"This will lead the dogs to experience a wave of negative emotions including anxiousness and fear-aggressiveness.
"We'll be expecting an influx of animals through our doors.
"It's something that historically, we have always dealt with.
"But we are expecting a big increase when people go back to work."
Mike added: "The prices of pups absolutely rocketed this year where people were obviously seeing a market for it.
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"There's concern for us that a lot of pups are being brought in from Northern Irish puppy farms where they have come from very poor conditions and so they end up being very sick animals.
"Check you're buying from a licensed breeder who is registered with the local authority, local kennel club or recommended from a local vet.
"There's going to be a lot of people who will lose a lot of money being conned out.
"If you phone a reputable breeder, they'll probably ask you more questions than what you ask them because they want their pups to go to a good home, whereas, if you are buying from a puppy farm or a dealer, all they're interested in is the cash.
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"Anybody that is genuinely selling a pup in safe conditions should be able to show the buyer the puppy, its brothers and sisters and its mum.
"This can easily be done over a Zoom call to give that reassurance.
"But always, ask to see the registered licence.
"If a breeder says their paperwork is available, get that delivered to you before the pup and double-check the details on the certificates to make sure they're not forged.
"Most children would be ecstatic to get their puppy then to their devastation they have to suffer when the puppy gets ill and passes away only a few days after they've taken it home.
"It's a trading misery and I'm sorry to put a damper on anybody's Christmas or New Year, but please be aware if you're going to be getting any new pets and make sure you're buying from a reputable source."
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