The pandemic has triggered a boom in pet ownership as people are spending more time at home and a spike in pet sale prices due to the restrictions.
On a positive note, animal shelters are also seeing a spike in interest to foster or adopt during this period.
Merchants bearing more costs to import pets
According to the Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao, low supply and high demand have led to prices of popular breeds.
A 25-year-old pet shop owner, only identified as Liu by Zaobao, notes the spiked public interest in pet ownership but also highlighted the additional costs that merchants have to bear during this period.
Liu shared that the limited supply of imported pets due to Covid-19 has caused prices to soar, and that the original price of a poodle, ranging between S$2,000 and S$3,000, has inflated up to S$8,000.
Liu cited additional costs such as handling fees, quarantine fees as factors that drove the prices up.
He told Zaobao:
"The expenses for a single dog that merchants have to pay add up to $5,000 or S$6,000 yet the profits earned remain low, which results in a higher selling price."
Pick-A-Pet, a local pet store chain, claims that the store's prices for dogs and cats have doubled on average, especially those from Australia and other breeds imported from overseas.
"The reduced flights, tighter border restrictions, in addition to the full occupancy at the pet quarantine centre are factors that directly affect the import supply. More people wish to buy pets during the pandemic, which also contributes to the increased selling prices."
Strong demand for pets
A spokesperson from Pick-A-Pet told Zaobao that despite the more expensive price tag, many people are still willing to pay a hefty sum for a pet, and that the sales for last year surpassed the previous year.
Pets Lovers' Centre, which sells hamsters, rabbits, and other small pets, said all the pets that they sell are imported from overseas and the retail prices correspond to market demands.
"The increased demand for pets in the countries that export pets, coupled with the disruption of the supply chain during the pandemic, resulted in the inability to import small pets into Singapore. Yet, the local demand for it has increased, which resulted in a price hike."
Kimberly Kan, 30, purchased her Corgi, Kyubi, from a local pet farm for S$8,000 last July.
Speaking to Zaobao, she shared, imported pets were in short supply back then during Phase 1 and she was unwilling to wait. At the same time, she also hoped to meet and interact with the dog personally before deciding to make the purchase. Thus, she decided to purchase her beloved dog from a local merchant.
"I heard that the current market value for Corgis has soared to more than S$10,000. If I were quoted this price, I may need to reconsider. However, to some dog lovers, the price may not be a top priority."
Tightened regulations against illegal merchants drive pet sale prices up
However, the president of the Singapore Kennel Club, Chua Ming Kok, believes, the soar in pet retail prices is not caused by the pandemic. Instead, it is due to the Animal and Veterinary Service's (AVS) tightened regulations against illegal merchants.
According to AVS regulations, only pet stores and pet farms holding the appropriate licenses are able to display, breed, or sell pets.
Chua notes, although the regulations have been in effect for many years, the relevant authorities have only tightened enforcements in the past year or so to crack down on illegal home-based backyard breeders and merchants, Zaobao reported.
"The reduction of illegal merchants directly affects the supply quantity. However, the public demand remains high, which results in the natural inflation of the retail prices."
Citing the Corgi as an example, Chua states that it previously cost S$3,000 or S$4,000 but the price has since doubled, with a range of S$8,000 to S$12,000. The popular Shiba Inu used to cost S$4,000 to S$5,000 but is now priced at S$16,000.
Chua notes, despite the higher prices of the premium breeds, the high price tag does not necessarily reflect the quality of the dog. He reminds buyers to do their homework in advance, ensuring that the seller holds the relevant licenses and the animal is in good health before purchasing for a peace of mind.
High pet retail prices push some to adopt or foster
Due to the persistently high pet retail prices, some people have chosen to adopt instead of purchasing a pet. During the pandemic, more people are opening their homes to foster shelter animals.
While the pandemic has resulted in a halt on all adoption drives, the president of Save Our Streets Dogs (SOSD) Siew Tuck Wah told Zaobao that they are receiving more enquiries and dogs brought to the shelter are adopted quicker than before.
Siew believes this is due to the inability to travel due to the pandemic. With more people working from home, they have more time and energy to look after new pets.
"Amongst the people who had adopted dogs in the past year, I believe that many of them had already wanted to adopt animals but are hesitant to do so due to the lack of time. Dogs need time to adjust to their new homes, this pandemic provides people with an ideal opportunity to adopt."
Siew also thinks that the increase in dog retail prices may be another reason to encourage more people to adopt.
"I am uncertain of how much this affects pet adoption during the pandemic. However, the combination of people having more time, the increased pet prices, and the revision of government restrictions to allow slightly taller mixed-breed dogs to be rehomed in HDB flats under Project ADORE are factors that contribute to the overall increase in pet adoption."
Executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Jaipal Singh Gill told Zaobao that the number of foster applications has increased by 10 times.
Before the pandemic, SPCA receives an average of 10 to 15 foster applications per month. In contrast, they received 120 to 150 foster applications per month during the circuit breaker.
Jaipal told Zaobao:
"This [increase in foster applications] is mainly because more people are working from home and they believe that they have the ability to care for an animal temporarily."
Photo via SPCA's facebook.The number of animals that are adopted is also increasing every year. Nonetheless, Gill notes, it is impossible to determine if the public interest in pet adoptions has increased during the pandemic as the organisation ceased all adoption drives during the circuit breaker and only accepted appointments thereafter.
"Some people may choose to adopt because the retail price of a pet is too high. However, our shelter rarely has premium breeds, some people who are insistent on purchasing their favourite breed would rather pay a high price or wait for the prices to drop than adopt."
Top images via Kyubithecorgi/Instagram and NParks/Facebook. H/T: Lianhe Zaobao