COVID-19 lockdown causes puppy prices to soar as backyard breeders creep into market

The price of puppies is soaring, driven by a huge jump in demand following the COVID-19 lockdown.

And there are concerns that the number of backyard breeders - who are not registered - is also on the rise.

Cute, cuddly and expensive, Dobermans are $3000 a pup but breeder Lisa Slade says that's actually a bargain in today's market. 

"Anything with an 'oodle' in it is a crossbred dog - they're asking for at least double ours. On TradeMe 'cavoodles' are selling for well over $6000."

When asked for data on prices and sales TradeMe said it doesn't collect those figures because they're classified ads.

But pet experts say both prices and sales are soaring.

"Definitely during COVID a lot of people got dogs during that time as something to do at home," says Slade. 

That's led to an increase in pet dogs being registered in 2020

Between August and November there was a 20 percent jump in registrations compared to the same period last year.

There's no clear data in New Zealand on exactly how many people are breeding dogs, but figures from Dogs NZ show the number of registered breeders last year - the new kennel names - rose by 71, and this year it's risen by 188.   

Even with the surge of new registered breeders, it's hard to keep up, says director Steven Thompson. 

"At the moment we're having difficulty supplying demand… the breeders have been telling me the phone has been running off the hook."

Post-lockdown demand appears to also be driving an increase in backyard breeders - who are not registered with Dogs NZ.

Their ads might say a dog's been vet-checked but it's not the same as the DNA testing, hip x-rays and health testing - which are compulsory for registered dogs.

Slade says many people are just buying problems.

"It's frustrating.. you're usually mopping up the pieces at the end because they'll ring you because their dog has suffered an early death or they've got these health issues that have come up, and then they've decided 'oh perhaps I should've gone with a pedigree registered breeder'."

Problems that vet Kristen Wylie says TradeMe enables by giving backyard breeders a marketing platform. 

"People just go 'I've got a dog and I'm going to breed it.' They'll put it to anything without any homework about why they're breeding, what they're trying to achieve with their breeding," she told Newshub.

"It's creating some big problems. "

TradeMe refused an interview and said its code of animal welfare goes above and beyond the legal requirements. 

But Thompson is warning it's a 'buyer beware' kind of market.

"You wouldn't buy a car without a contract, so you need to have a contract from that breeder."