16 Nov 2021

Puppies kept in pet stores throughout lockdown

From Checkpoint, 5:28 pm on 16 November 2021

An online petition is calling for the end of pets for sale in pet shops following backlash against an Auckland shop that kept two puppies in-store throughout lockdown.

Two Auckland Pet Stop stores are under fire for keeping two French bulldog puppies locked down during lockdown.

A Facebook post from a visitor to the Newmarket store claimed the puppy was lying in and eating its own faeces, frightened and shut down. The post went on to say the puppy was not taken home during lockdown because the owner had a cat.

RNZ video from inside the Newmarket store shows him inside a small glass box without a bed and alone.

When we visited yesterday Checkpoint was told the puppy had just sold for $6000 along with another from the East Tāmaki store.

Two Givealittle pages have been set up calling for donations to cover the hefty pricetags for the pups named "Dougie" and "Diff". Both buyers were appalled the dogs had been locked up for so long and said Pet Stop would not free them until the asking price was paid.

Animal behaviourist Mark Vette said the puppies should never have been kept in store.

"Sitting there, you know in a glass box it's just not good for a dog simply. They should be at the breeder's up to 8 weeks and they should be in the new home as soon as possible."

The SPCA said they received complaints about the two puppies and an inspector visited one of the stores and would visit the other.

They made several recommendations but could only take legal action if there was a breach of the Animal Welfare Act.

Pet Stop declined an interview but said in a statement the puppies were cared for by staff throughout lockdown and the SPCA had visited both stores but did not have any concerns instead they were satisfied the puppy was well cared for and had "clean, well set up" conditions.

The effect of lockdown on puppies is significant.

Dog owners at Onehunga dogpark told Checkpoint a lack of socialisation could take its toll.

"He would have been about three months old when we went into the first lockdown. He definitely had a little bit of fear and aggression a bit nervous in front of other dogs and mostly other people.

"Dog owners have definitely been more aware of how awkward their dogs have been a little bit since being in this particular locked down for so long.

"There's been a lot of interesting encounters where they sort of sussing each other out a little bit not sure if they can approach him and play."

That's why Dr Mark Vette set up his own virtual puppy school when the first lockdown hit last year to help owners navigate raising a puppy in lockdown.

"They don't have the opportunity to socialise well outside of the family, and that's absolutely critical for up in the two to four-month period, in particular, because that's the formative period.

"That's when 80 percent of this brain of theirs wires up, so that's when almost all of this social behaviour develops."

He said they found creative workarounds to help with this.

"You know we got family dressed up in different gear and coming up through the door in the house and looking like these strangers and all of those kind of things to start to at least mimic what we needed to do."

He warned owners not to take their dogs straight to the dog park until they had basic training covered.

Dr Alison Vaughan from the SPCA said when we people returned to offices in the new year there were things to make separation anxiety easier for pooches.

"Start with very short times and give them something really good or delicious to work on, like a Kong filled with pet-safe peanut butter or something similar and just step out for a minute two minutes even in your own home in a different room and just build up times to be longer and longer."

Along with getting them used to different sounds and surfaces and masks, it is important to acknowledge the work that will go into looking after them when work returns to normal.

Meanwhile, the Petstop boys Doug and Diff are enjoying their freedom after three months locked down in the pet shop. Doug will be rehomed but Diff's owners said having him was like getting a surprise baby.

More than 3000 people have signed a petition over the past 24 hours calling for the sale of live animals in pet stores to be banned.