Unscrupulous dog breeders, unprepared owners: pandemic puppies are suffering

When Brad Weigensberg and his wife spotted a Merle French Bulldog advertised by a breeder on Kijiji, they fell in love with it instantly.

The breeder was equally quick. “She said ‘No deposit needed—we’re going to hold it for you,” he recalled.

So he drove to Toronto to pick up the puppy. It was waiting amid multiple dogs all ready to be picked up the same day.

Weigensberg took his own new puppy home, and “she was sweet as can be,” he said.

Three days later, the puppy became violently ill—it was vomiting and had diarrhea. Weigensberg rushed it to the emergency veterinary clinic.

“The minute we got there, the vet told us ‘We believe your dog has a virus called parvo, which is deadly to puppies,’” he said.

If that was right, it only had a 40 per cent chance of survival, the vet said, also warning that the treatment was “very expensive.”

After four days in the animal hospital, and $5,600 in vet bills, the puppy died.

Weigensberg says he went back to the seller to tell her the dog was ill—but as soon as he did that, she stopped responding to him.

It’s a story that Helen Lacroix, the founder of Animatch Dog Adoption Services, hears far too often, she says.

While she doesn’t know the particular breeder who sold to Weigensberg, she told CTV that the pandemic has led to a huge demand for dogs, which some dog sellers are taking advantage of in a troubling way.

Lacroix says many dog sellers move animals like merchandise, while many people considering a dog ownership haven’t thought it through. 

“I do worry about the unscrupulous breeders, because all they’re looking at is the buck at the end of the line,” she says.

She’s concerned that many dogs bought during the pandemic will end up in shelters like hers, looking for a new home.

She points to a one-year-old gentle Nordic mix named Eyelene. “Look at what’s happening—she’s shedding,” said Lacroix as she stroked the dog, sending fur blowing in the wind.

“A lot of people aren’t thinking about that when they see that cute little puppy for adoption or for sale.”

She showed another large dog that many families have tried to adopt but all ended up not able to make it permanent.

“Getting these dogs, with young kids, they knock them over and throw them down the stairs,” she said.

While Animatch would rather keep the dogs than send them to an unfit family, most breeders don’t think that way, she said.

There are already signs of what’s to come, she said.

“They want a dog because they’re bored, because now it’s nice weather and they want to go walking,” she said.

“We have dogs from people who got them last spring and they find it too hard.” 

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