$12,000 for a dog? Why pet lovers in S'pore are willing to pay 'pandemic premiums'

Nanyang Technological University student Isabel Joy Kua bought her three-month-old bichon frise, Sunny, for $8,900 last month. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ISABEL JOY KUA

SINGAPORE - Would you pay more than $12,000 for a dog? Some Singaporeans can - and will.

And demand for these costly canines shows no signs of abating, despite prices for many breeds ballooning since last year.

Checks by The Straits Times found that a golden retriever can cost up to $12,800, compared with about $5,000 last January.

A poodle can go for as much as $11,800, when one cost around $4,000 in the previous year.

Demand for puppies surged right after the circuit breaker ended, and all five shops suggest that prices will continue to rise.

Dogs are imported from places such as Ireland, Taiwan and Australia, or come from local breeders.

Nanyang Technological University student Isabel Joy Kua, 20, who bought her three-month-old bichon frise, Sunny, for $8,900 last month, said: "Several shops tried to get me to reserve a dog even before I interacted with it, which didn't make sense. But they said that if I went the next day, the dog would probably have been bought by another customer."

A dog owner in his 30s, who gave his name only as Maxime, bought a local toy poodle last June and a pomsky - a pomeranian-husky mix - from Ireland last November.

He told ST that once dog sales resumed on June 19, when phase two started, all the time slots for viewings at pet shops were fully booked for the first two days.

Buyers said that they were willing to pay "pandemic premiums" owing to money saved from cancelled holidays and work-from-home arrangements.

Ms Kua had wanted a dog since primary school and finally managed to persuade her parents to let her buy one. She said: "We used the money saved on travelling to pay for Sunny."

Maxime, who paid $10,300 in all for both his dogs, said: "Working from home during the circuit breaker period was a major factor for me as I now had time to invest in training the puppy."

Others like Ms Joanna Cheng-Ajlani chose to adopt dogs from animal shelters instead. "To be honest, if not for the change in work arrangements for both my husband and myself, we would not have even considered a pet," said Ms Cheng-Ajlani, who adopted nine-year-old Polo, a Singapore special from Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD). Depending on the animal shelter, adopting a dog can cost between $250 and $531.50.

Dog owner Maxime paid $10,300 in all for a local toy poodle and a pomsky. PHOTOS: MAXIME

While adoption queries were reported to have increased in August, the number of adoptions have returned to pre-pandemic levels for animal welfare groups Causes for Animals (CAS) and Save Our Street Dogs. In-person adoption drives have yet to resume.

Mr Ricky Yeo, founder of ASD, said: "We are always operating at full capacity. While adoptions peaked at 247 last year, the take-in rate is still high." The organisation shelters around 150 dogs, of which 90 per cent are Singapore specials.

CAS fund-raising coordinator Christine Bernadette said while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with buying dogs, it is important to get them from ethical breeders.

"Many buyers are unaware about the conditions that the parents of their dogs are subjected to, which often mean being caged and kept alive just for breeding," Ms Bernadette, 32, added,

"There needs to be more education on the cruelty of puppy mills."

Additional reporting by Sherlyn Sim

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