立即打開
疫情后的寵物市場,混亂程度超乎想象

疫情后的寵物市場,混亂程度超乎想象

Katherine Dunn 2021年04月03日
膨脹和扭曲,還牽扯如此多的騙局。

圖片來源:IBYANGSHU SARKAR—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

2020年9月,某個周一的下午,正值英國全國封鎖的間歇期,我不得不面對我瘋狂地想擁有一只狗狗的事實。

幾封長長的電子郵件就能證明我當時的狂熱:一封是來自位于倫敦的英國稅務海關總署的信件;另一封是與我在加拿大家鄉艾伯塔省卡爾加里咨詢過的專業寵物托運人的信件。這兩封信為的都是同一件事。

是的,在一場把人類困住的全球新冠疫情期間,把一只小狗送到一個班次極少的跨大西洋航班的貨艙里,帶它跨越國界還是有可能的。但這只是一個可怕的想法,需要數月的時間和數千美元的執行費用。光是文書工作就令人望而卻步。

從技術上講,其中涉及的繁文縟節,聽起來與試圖進口一匹表演用的小馬或者一件昂貴的藝術品沒有什么不同。

我想要這樣做的主要原因是我害怕被困在英國家中,并且身邊沒有狗狗陪伴,因而想從加拿大艾伯塔南部買一條柯基犬。當地小狗相對充足,價格合理。

在這個過程中,我發現,要想擁有四條腿的小朋友,就得面對讓人頭痛的市場,這一市場充滿了惡性競爭、坐地起價、無良飼主、歐洲走私者、狡詐的騙子和明目張膽的盜狗者。

而這還只是倫敦的情況。

全球養狗熱潮已經成為疫情時代的特色,從加拿大到瑞典,再到西班牙、巴西、澳大利亞和以色列,處處需求激增。

在美國,從洛杉磯到紐約的動物收容所在疫情剛開始便被猛增的需求掃清,不少人還開創了根據需求開車或坐飛機往全國運輸狗狗的作坊行業,呈現出一派欣欣向榮的景象。

據繁育者在線報價網站PuppySpot的數據,與之前一年相比,疫情爆發后的美國小狗價格上漲了36%,目前仍然維持高位。該網站稱,黃金貴賓犬最受歡迎,至于價格最高昂的英國牧羊貴賓犬的價格飆升了近90%。

不過,對狗狗的需求也可能導致現存的嚴重問題日益惡化,因為美國政府經常在公開市場上為軍隊購買德國牧羊犬和拉布拉多犬,導致跟民間形成競爭。據彭博社報道,某些犬種即便在精英訓練開始之前,其價格也經常超過5500美元。

與狗狗相關的詐騙和盜竊案件也在增加。今年2月,幫Lady Gaga遛狗的人在洛杉磯一條街上遭到槍殺,兩條法國斗牛犬被偷。后來狗狗找了回來,但原因是Lady Gaga懸賞50萬美元并承諾“不問任何問題”。

目前尚不清楚劫匪盜狗是因為知道主人是流行歌星,還是單純因為法國斗牛犬需求飆升,目前這種狗的售價高達1萬美元。

但隨著法國斗牛犬被盜的報道增多,美國養犬俱樂部迅速為憂心忡忡的主人發布了指南。該俱樂部指出,美國每年大約有200萬只狗被搶走,通常是“轉手”給新主人,其中小型高價犬尤其危險。

“這種狗很容易抓也容易轉移?!痹摼銟凡科煜聦と誂KC Reunite的首席執行官湯姆·夏普表示。

詐騙也層出不窮。有數據記錄的最后一個月為2020年11月,Better Business Bureau記錄了337起與寵物相關的欺詐投訴,同比增加了400%以上。

據該機構估計,2020年美國和加拿大相關詐騙損失可能超過300萬美元。與此同時,騙子在2020年還創新了手法,有些通過Venmo和禮品卡付款,有些甚至偽造動物收容所。

美國聯邦貿易委員會警告稱,騙子經常以疫情為借口要求額外“費用”運送并不存在的小狗。

需求和詐騙根源都是同一現象。自疫情爆發以來,全球城市里相對享有特權的人們似乎都愛囤積重要物資:豆子、游戲、衛生紙和狗狗。

在封鎖期間,人們對狗狗的熱愛往往會轉變為幾乎全社會的癡迷,這個過程中形成了奇怪而且有時令人不安的供需扭曲。與衛生紙不同的是,這并不是短暫現象。

我應該算是有發言權的。畢竟有那么幾個月,我除了狗狗之外,基本什么都不想。

可愛的商品

2020年9月6日,印度加爾各答的小狗。全球范圍的封鎖導致對狗的需求激增,尤其是小狗。圖片來源:DIBYANGSHU SARKAR—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

等到我和男朋友在空曠的高速公路上爭分奪秒,終于在秋天抱來小狗的時候,第二波全國性封鎖已然迫近。我們正式成為了疫情養狗熱潮中的一份子。

格里夫是一只潘布魯克威爾士柯基犬,最喜歡嚼棍子,攔截其他小狗,也喜歡吃公園里發現的臟東西,它自己也成了歷史性時刻的一部分。疫情期間的狗狗眼前所見的是壓抑、生活拮據且時常相伴的人類。而人類在疫情期間唯一的愛好,或社交安慰的來源就是遛狗,他們十分需要狗狗的陪伴。

當然,所有人包括我在內,都不喜歡把心愛的狗狗當成商品。然而疫情期間不管實際情況如果,狗狗就是這樣的存在,不僅是商品,還是熱門商品。

英國原本就是熱愛狗狗的島國,過去一年里,全國性的封鎖中有一半時間,其國家邊界受到疫情和脫歐的雙重限制,如今更是完全陷入養狗狂熱之中。

過去一年在監管松懈的英國公開市場上,小狗的價格一路走高,也成為股市可怕泡沫的鏡像。

2020年5月,隨著英國第一輪封鎖結束,一家名為Pets4Homes的在線網站發現,每只待售小狗都能夠收到420條認真的咨詢。

該網站表示,到2020年11月,也就是完整數據最新的一個月,小狗的價格是2019年平均價格的2.3倍,躍升至數千英鎊水平,漲幅當然還達不到比特幣的水平,但明顯高過標普500指數。

與此同時,貴賓犬、獵犬和斗牛犬組成的排行榜證明了人們對時髦品種的瘋狂需求,其中迷你貴賓犬排名第一,每只小狗有1882名買家感興趣,而最昂貴的品種則是英國斗牛犬。到2020年中期,溫斯頓·丘吉爾當年鐘愛的狗狗平均漲價3000英鎊。

當然也有一些間歇期,這一時間往往跟英國人面臨的封鎖限制密切相關。限制放松時,人們買狗;限制收緊時,人們就到處找狗。(到2021年1月中旬,隨著英國第三波限制,每只小狗的咨詢從2020年高點下降,仍然徘徊在200以上。)

Pets4Homes的英國總經理李·吉布森在查看該網站流量后表示,整體走勢看起來接近三個高峰,跟全國封鎖時間保持一致。

不僅純種狗的購買增加,網上領養的數量同樣激增。去年3月英國首次封鎖,倫敦著名貓狗之家Battersea發現為寵物找新家的申請也在激增。

Battersea的康復和福利經理貝基·麥基弗表示,僅在5月的一個星期里,領養中心就收到了5000份領養狗狗的申請。她補充說,最近該中心接收的狗被領養得更快,通常幾天內就可以找到新家。

“狗狗可憐巴巴眼神”的力量

2020年6月6日,位于洛杉磯的諾曼·O·哈德遜公園里,黑人平權事件中一只特別友好的小狗。圖片來源:KENT NISHIMURA—LOS ANGELES TIMES/GETTY IMAGES

杜克大學的進化人類學家,也是《狗狗的天才:為何狗狗比你想象中聰明》(The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think)一書的合著者布萊恩·黑爾稱,縱觀歷史,狗狗在人類生活中扮演過很多角色。狗一直是暖床狩獵的伙伴,“身邊食物不夠時,還會吃狗肉?!?/p>

那么,為何現在人們如此熱愛養狗呢?雖然人類幾乎不需要什么鼓勵就能夠陷入購買狂潮,看看2021年年初GameStop的漲勢就知道,如果再要假裝人類跟狗的關系沒有什么特別的地方,就有點憤世嫉俗了。

事實上,人類跟狗狗的聯系常常被認為是進化的一大亮點。由于眼睛肌肉發達,狗狗揚起眉毛后的眼睛看起來特別大,即“狗狗可憐巴巴的眼神”,這與人類嬰兒的表情相似,所以魔力非常大。嬰兒學會說話,或以其他交流方式之前,就是通過眼神接觸與成人建立聯系。

眼神接觸會使人分泌催產素,刺激大腦感受到愛和養育,從而擴大和加深自身的眼神接觸,然后再感受一遍催產素的刺激。

“當狗狗盯著你眼睛看的時候,觸發了父母跟孩子之間的催產素循環?!焙跔栒f,“相當于狗狗在用眼睛擁抱你?!?/p>

現代社會對狗的癡迷,往往被認為是孤獨社會的副作用,或是生育率下降和推遲分娩的嚴酷后果,伴隨著相關Instagram賬戶、狗狗定制服裝、狗狗日托還有高價標簽等。(疫情剛開始時,還被吹捧為可以催生新一波嬰兒潮的時機,結果對美國夫婦的影響似乎恰好相反。)黑爾也提出了務實的疫情前理論。

“任何在千禧年前養過狗的人都會熟悉‘沐浴和祈禱’這種控制跳蚤的方法?!彼f。

在21世紀之前,出于需要,狗狗經常為放養,后來現代獸醫將控制跳蚤的方法簡化為在花生醬里藏上幾粒藥丸。成功驅除跳蚤之后,狗狗突然能夠上沙發,甚至跳上床了。他認為,人類立刻迷上了狗狗的個性,忍不住稱贊狗狗聰明。

然而,人們很難忽視狗狗與兒童的相似之處。

2020年5月,在《財富》雜志撰稿人王波非的一篇關于寵物行業利潤豐厚的報道中,寫到美國人將寵物狗“人性化”的本能如何影響商業。

狗狗變成家庭成員,經常吃高價的“人類級”狗糧;寵物主通常不被稱為“主人”,而是“寵物父母”。這不僅提升了狗狗在家庭中的地位,還經常使寵物變成主人的心肝寶貝。

“19世紀是人類孩子的世紀,21世紀則是狗狗的世紀?!?019年黑爾跟瓦妮莎·伍茲合寫的《紐約時報》文章中寫道。

“多數狗不需要長時間工作, 除了愛我們之外,什么都不用做。而且狗狗在這一點上做得很好?!?/p>

漲價和收養面試

在小狗完成疫苗接種后,我們就帶它去當地公園,加入早晨一眾狗狗的行列。這是非正式,同時也保持社交距離的會面,在吵鬧、摔跤、飛跑的狗狗身旁,是極度渴望社交的新主人。

倫敦的科基犬格里夫,也是全球疫情中養狗熱潮的一部分。圖片來源:COURTESY OF KATHERINE DUNN

我們有很多同伴,“疫情小狗”非常多。在當地公園里,年幼的狗狗非正式地分成幾代,這也跟幼年的特殊封鎖有關。其中最小的小狗只是顫抖的小毛團,而年紀最大的已經是頑皮成熟的少年。

不久之后,我們不可避免地受邀加入WhatsApp群,人們幸福地分享訓練技巧、天氣預報和有趣的狗狗照片,而對政治或新聞則很少關注。

不過當我問起狗狗的來源,人們便打開話匣子,聊了幾個小時。一位混種貴賓犬的主人說,狗狗原來的主人要求收養者7點準時打電話,好像搶購熱門音樂會門票一樣。當七八分鐘后終于打通電話時,12只小狗只剩下了兩只。

另一位混種臘腸犬的主人坦言,曾經帶著一沓現金穿越倫敦去抱小狗,結果剛把狗抱在懷里,就聽說價格突然提高了250英鎊(約合341美元)。

很多群友也曾經試圖領養狗狗,但大多都以失敗告終。收容所說一位群友不夠“自信”;還問另一些群友是否計劃成家,如果有計劃則是什么時候。

有位本地狗狗的主人遠從羅馬尼亞找來一條救援犬,整個過程相當典型,包括兩次電話采訪、一次視頻審核,還有一次見面,最后才把狗帶回家。

另一些人表示參加過領養前的測試,主要考驗狗狗訓練知識;經過一輪輪采訪,一對夫婦發現電子郵件再也沒有收到回復。

而我的故事很簡短也很認真,就是努力從大西洋彼岸運來一只小狗,結果絲毫沒有出奇之處。

“進入銀行賬戶——錢沒了”

安迪·西蒙斯是西蘇塞克斯郡一家名為Transfur的小型家庭寵物搬遷公司的負責人,每周都會接到兩三次電話,希望他可以幫助自家的狗狗接生。但這樣的談話極少有好的結局。

“跟這些人交談時能夠很明顯感覺到,他們是詐騙的對象?!彼f?!皩Ψ揭笏麄冇脕嗰R遜的代金券或西聯匯款支付,就是騙錢。登進銀行賬戶——錢就沒了?!?/p>

經常有人將公司網頁上的詳細信息發給潛在的狗狗主人。不用說,描述的小狗并不存在。

他說,也有越來越多的人打電話希望安排小狗過境,通常來自東歐。

“我懷疑這些人是從小狗農場購買,現在發現……沒有辦法把小狗送到英國?!蔽髅伤拐f。他指出,Transfur也做不到。通常情況下,公司只可以將寵物送出國,而且是在搬家時,并不是將寵物運進來。

欺詐行為雖然并不新奇,卻是伴隨小狗價格大幅上漲可預見的副作用。

然而,運輸是個新問題。英國的養狗愛好者相當集中,長期以來一直很吸引進口狗,有些是從流浪狗眾多的國家拯救而來的,有些則是來自狗狗繁育基地,通常飼養和運輸條件相當可怕。

由于小狗走私者受打擊、疫情限制邊境流通、航班減少以及英國新脫歐規則下的進口狗海關政策混亂,依靠進口很難滿足英國人對小狗的需求。

除了價格飆升,外部供應停滯也可能導致國內一波盜狗熱潮。

很難判斷盜狗有多普遍,因為倫敦警察局并沒有區分偷狗和其他類型的財產盜竊,但慈善機構Lost Dog稱,2020年是“有史以來盜狗現象最嚴重的”一年,相關報告增加了250%。

有位退休警官現在是警犬偵探,工作簡直做不完。與此同時,去年12月英國廣播公司的一個電視節目稱,英國接二連三的盜狗案也是一種“疫情”,還引述一位不具名的情報人士稱,至少有兩個犯罪組織從販毒改為偷狗。畢竟經濟回報更大,而且往往懲罰極輕。

就連傳奇的調查新聞網站Bellingcat的創始人艾略特·希金斯也卷入其中。最近希金斯對英國《金融時報》表示,雖然他以揭露敘利亞戰爭罪行聞名,但近期卻通過破譯車牌協助,找回了一只被盜的狗。

諸多盜狗報道,再加上社交媒體上流傳丟失狗狗的主人飽含痛苦的海報,有些甚至直接從手上搶走,都引發了人們對犯罪的恐懼,讓人想起常有時髦小狗被奪走,勒索贖金的維多利亞時代的英國。

其中有個案例激發了弗吉尼亞·伍爾夫的靈感,后來寫出小說《阿弗小傳》(Flush)。

本地公園里,同行的遛狗者開始發現,附近出現了不起眼、不遛狗,還長時間拍攝狗狗的男人。在一次學習調查新聞機構Bellingcat的行動中,我的男朋友在偷拍狗狗玩耍的照片里,發現一個模糊的人影在給狗狗拍照。

當然,偷拍者可能只是不擅社交的愛狗人士,或者只是封鎖期間無聊出門散步的倫敦人。但在恐懼的氛圍中,沒有人愿意冒險。很多談話都涉及遛狗伙伴、報警哨和潛在的沖突。

群成員還在當地咖啡館貼上了印刷牌。牌上有只戴著手套的手,要抓被嚇壞的小狗,上面寫著“小心!”

疫情期間的養狗后果

在這艱難的12個月里,養狗無疑是難得的亮點。我小時候就養過很多只柯基犬,多年來一直想自己養。我的衣柜都變成了柯基主題,這對于一名31歲的女性來說略顯尷尬。

問題是不僅包括新奇的襪子和T恤,連手提包、帽子、鹽和胡椒瓶都有柯基,這些往往是家里同樣熱愛狗的家人送的禮物。

養狗之前我常常慢跑,路過其他遛狗的人時,心里很難過,總是夢想著什么時候可以養一條自己的狗。等到我的狗狗到家,就發現狂躁的狗叫和不停拉屎,換來的是擁抱、遛狗和不必專注于全球疫情的放松,相比之下,這些代價都是值得的。

很多人感覺,在如此殘酷又如此累人的一年里,養寵物狗打破了人們的外殼。

在倫敦,跟陌生人閑聊并不是常態,然而不管是慢跑者、工人還是害羞的小學生,早上散步時都愿意停下來擁抱格里夫。

在把它抱來之后的一個月里,盡管還是要戴著口罩并保持社交距離,與我聊天的人更多了,我也會對更多陌生人微笑,這是多年來沒有的經歷。

在幸福明顯短缺的時候,向小狗問好會讓人明顯且不可控制地感到幸福。

但當我寫這篇報道時,卻時常為所發現的信息而感到震驚、不安甚至羞愧。當然,對狗狗的熱愛應該保持純粹。集體的癡迷怎會產生如此巨大的泡沫,發生這樣的膨脹和扭曲,還牽扯如此多的騙局?

小狗不應該是世間純粹美好的存在嗎?

而實際情況是,需求激增明顯讓各種寵物慈善機構和養犬俱樂部感到恐慌,甚至集體做出警告稱,騙局規模龐大、狗狗繁育者動機不單純以及最終可能出現遺棄,讓新一波入坑的養狗者面臨諸多變數且未來難料。

英國的Kennel Club向我提供了2020年7月開始的研究結果,發現倫敦超過三分之一的新主人無法辨別惡劣的繁育者或騙局,約45%的人對于回到“正?!鄙钅J降囊咔楹笕绾翁幚砉饭泛翢o計劃。

從疫情開始到目前,Pets4Homes和Battersea都尚未發現小狗送到收養中心或廣告趨勢上升。

但Battersea的麥基弗警告稱,由于英國采取強制休假,封鎖期間仍然付給員工薪水,所以推遲了遺棄激增。她表示,該中心預計如果英國因為疫情而進入另一場衰退,流浪狗或被遺棄的狗狗將增加27%。(去年英國已經進入技術衰退。)Battersea和英國其他領養中心都在“默默做準備”,她說。

獸醫、慈善機構和飼養員也警告稱,狗狗在適應“正?!鄙罘绞椒矫婵赡鼙热祟惛щy,因為過去一年大部分時間里人們非??释叱黾议T,甚至去辦公室都知足。

他們警告說,如果狗狗的身邊無人長時間陪伴,獲得的注意力不夠時,就可能出現諸多分離焦慮和行為問題。

布萊恩·黑爾等人嚴肅提出建議,在疫情期間要讓狗狗多適應獨處。

但我依然不后悔養格里夫,雖然也是疫情期間的選擇。像我認識多數真心愛狗的主人一樣,我的感覺不再理性。我很清楚它不是我的孩子,客觀地說我也知道養它花了很多錢??梢哉f花費是疫情前的兩倍。

但每當我輕輕抱著會叫、會咬、會放屁的大耳朵毛團,都會深深凝望著它的眼睛。我的愛犬也注視著我,它明顯想知道我是不是會給它塊餅干,此時我會迷失在催產素誘發的愛意中。

“格里夫,”我一邊唱歌一邊在狗狗身邊跳華爾茲,“你像我愛你一樣愛我嗎?”(財富中文網)

譯者:馮豐

審校:夏林

2020年9月,某個周一的下午,正值英國全國封鎖的間歇期,我不得不面對我瘋狂地想擁有一只狗狗的事實。

幾封長長的電子郵件就能證明我當時的狂熱:一封是來自位于倫敦的英國稅務海關總署的信件;另一封是與我在加拿大家鄉艾伯塔省卡爾加里咨詢過的專業寵物托運人的信件。這兩封信為的都是同一件事。

是的,在一場把人類困住的全球新冠疫情期間,把一只小狗送到一個班次極少的跨大西洋航班的貨艙里,帶它跨越國界還是有可能的。但這只是一個可怕的想法,需要數月的時間和數千美元的執行費用。光是文書工作就令人望而卻步。

從技術上講,其中涉及的繁文縟節,聽起來與試圖進口一匹表演用的小馬或者一件昂貴的藝術品沒有什么不同。

我想要這樣做的主要原因是我害怕被困在英國家中,并且身邊沒有狗狗陪伴,因而想從加拿大艾伯塔南部買一條柯基犬。當地小狗相對充足,價格合理。

在這個過程中,我發現,要想擁有四條腿的小朋友,就得面對讓人頭痛的市場,這一市場充滿了惡性競爭、坐地起價、無良飼主、歐洲走私者、狡詐的騙子和明目張膽的盜狗者。

而這還只是倫敦的情況。

全球養狗熱潮已經成為疫情時代的特色,從加拿大到瑞典,再到西班牙、巴西、澳大利亞和以色列,處處需求激增。

在美國,從洛杉磯到紐約的動物收容所在疫情剛開始便被猛增的需求掃清,不少人還開創了根據需求開車或坐飛機往全國運輸狗狗的作坊行業,呈現出一派欣欣向榮的景象。

據繁育者在線報價網站PuppySpot的數據,與之前一年相比,疫情爆發后的美國小狗價格上漲了36%,目前仍然維持高位。該網站稱,黃金貴賓犬最受歡迎,至于價格最高昂的英國牧羊貴賓犬的價格飆升了近90%。

不過,對狗狗的需求也可能導致現存的嚴重問題日益惡化,因為美國政府經常在公開市場上為軍隊購買德國牧羊犬和拉布拉多犬,導致跟民間形成競爭。據彭博社報道,某些犬種即便在精英訓練開始之前,其價格也經常超過5500美元。

與狗狗相關的詐騙和盜竊案件也在增加。今年2月,幫Lady Gaga遛狗的人在洛杉磯一條街上遭到槍殺,兩條法國斗牛犬被偷。后來狗狗找了回來,但原因是Lady Gaga懸賞50萬美元并承諾“不問任何問題”。

目前尚不清楚劫匪盜狗是因為知道主人是流行歌星,還是單純因為法國斗牛犬需求飆升,目前這種狗的售價高達1萬美元。

但隨著法國斗牛犬被盜的報道增多,美國養犬俱樂部迅速為憂心忡忡的主人發布了指南。該俱樂部指出,美國每年大約有200萬只狗被搶走,通常是“轉手”給新主人,其中小型高價犬尤其危險。

“這種狗很容易抓也容易轉移?!痹摼銟凡科煜聦と誂KC Reunite的首席執行官湯姆·夏普表示。

詐騙也層出不窮。有數據記錄的最后一個月為2020年11月,Better Business Bureau記錄了337起與寵物相關的欺詐投訴,同比增加了400%以上。

據該機構估計,2020年美國和加拿大相關詐騙損失可能超過300萬美元。與此同時,騙子在2020年還創新了手法,有些通過Venmo和禮品卡付款,有些甚至偽造動物收容所。

美國聯邦貿易委員會警告稱,騙子經常以疫情為借口要求額外“費用”運送并不存在的小狗。

需求和詐騙根源都是同一現象。自疫情爆發以來,全球城市里相對享有特權的人們似乎都愛囤積重要物資:豆子、游戲、衛生紙和狗狗。

在封鎖期間,人們對狗狗的熱愛往往會轉變為幾乎全社會的癡迷,這個過程中形成了奇怪而且有時令人不安的供需扭曲。與衛生紙不同的是,這并不是短暫現象。

我應該算是有發言權的。畢竟有那么幾個月,我除了狗狗之外,基本什么都不想。

可愛的商品

等到我和男朋友在空曠的高速公路上爭分奪秒,終于在秋天抱來小狗的時候,第二波全國性封鎖已然迫近。我們正式成為了疫情養狗熱潮中的一份子。

格里夫是一只潘布魯克威爾士柯基犬,最喜歡嚼棍子,攔截其他小狗,也喜歡吃公園里發現的臟東西,它自己也成了歷史性時刻的一部分。疫情期間的狗狗眼前所見的是壓抑、生活拮據且時常相伴的人類。而人類在疫情期間唯一的愛好,或社交安慰的來源就是遛狗,他們十分需要狗狗的陪伴。

當然,所有人包括我在內,都不喜歡把心愛的狗狗當成商品。然而疫情期間不管實際情況如果,狗狗就是這樣的存在,不僅是商品,還是熱門商品。

英國原本就是熱愛狗狗的島國,過去一年里,全國性的封鎖中有一半時間,其國家邊界受到疫情和脫歐的雙重限制,如今更是完全陷入養狗狂熱之中。

過去一年在監管松懈的英國公開市場上,小狗的價格一路走高,也成為股市可怕泡沫的鏡像。

2020年5月,隨著英國第一輪封鎖結束,一家名為Pets4Homes的在線網站發現,每只待售小狗都能夠收到420條認真的咨詢。

該網站表示,到2020年11月,也就是完整數據最新的一個月,小狗的價格是2019年平均價格的2.3倍,躍升至數千英鎊水平,漲幅當然還達不到比特幣的水平,但明顯高過標普500指數。

與此同時,貴賓犬、獵犬和斗牛犬組成的排行榜證明了人們對時髦品種的瘋狂需求,其中迷你貴賓犬排名第一,每只小狗有1882名買家感興趣,而最昂貴的品種則是英國斗牛犬。到2020年中期,溫斯頓·丘吉爾當年鐘愛的狗狗平均漲價3000英鎊。

當然也有一些間歇期,這一時間往往跟英國人面臨的封鎖限制密切相關。限制放松時,人們買狗;限制收緊時,人們就到處找狗。(到2021年1月中旬,隨著英國第三波限制,每只小狗的咨詢從2020年高點下降,仍然徘徊在200以上。)

Pets4Homes的英國總經理李·吉布森在查看該網站流量后表示,整體走勢看起來接近三個高峰,跟全國封鎖時間保持一致。

不僅純種狗的購買增加,網上領養的數量同樣激增。去年3月英國首次封鎖,倫敦著名貓狗之家Battersea發現為寵物找新家的申請也在激增。

Battersea的康復和福利經理貝基·麥基弗表示,僅在5月的一個星期里,領養中心就收到了5000份領養狗狗的申請。她補充說,最近該中心接收的狗被領養得更快,通常幾天內就可以找到新家。

“狗狗可憐巴巴眼神”的力量

杜克大學的進化人類學家,也是《狗狗的天才:為何狗狗比你想象中聰明》(The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think)一書的合著者布萊恩·黑爾稱,縱觀歷史,狗狗在人類生活中扮演過很多角色。狗一直是暖床狩獵的伙伴,“身邊食物不夠時,還會吃狗肉?!?/p>

那么,為何現在人們如此熱愛養狗呢?雖然人類幾乎不需要什么鼓勵就能夠陷入購買狂潮,看看2021年年初GameStop的漲勢就知道,如果再要假裝人類跟狗的關系沒有什么特別的地方,就有點憤世嫉俗了。

事實上,人類跟狗狗的聯系常常被認為是進化的一大亮點。由于眼睛肌肉發達,狗狗揚起眉毛后的眼睛看起來特別大,即“狗狗可憐巴巴的眼神”,這與人類嬰兒的表情相似,所以魔力非常大。嬰兒學會說話,或以其他交流方式之前,就是通過眼神接觸與成人建立聯系。

眼神接觸會使人分泌催產素,刺激大腦感受到愛和養育,從而擴大和加深自身的眼神接觸,然后再感受一遍催產素的刺激。

“當狗狗盯著你眼睛看的時候,觸發了父母跟孩子之間的催產素循環?!焙跔栒f,“相當于狗狗在用眼睛擁抱你?!?/p>

現代社會對狗的癡迷,往往被認為是孤獨社會的副作用,或是生育率下降和推遲分娩的嚴酷后果,伴隨著相關Instagram賬戶、狗狗定制服裝、狗狗日托還有高價標簽等。(疫情剛開始時,還被吹捧為可以催生新一波嬰兒潮的時機,結果對美國夫婦的影響似乎恰好相反。)黑爾也提出了務實的疫情前理論。

“任何在千禧年前養過狗的人都會熟悉‘沐浴和祈禱’這種控制跳蚤的方法?!彼f。

在21世紀之前,出于需要,狗狗經常為放養,后來現代獸醫將控制跳蚤的方法簡化為在花生醬里藏上幾粒藥丸。成功驅除跳蚤之后,狗狗突然能夠上沙發,甚至跳上床了。他認為,人類立刻迷上了狗狗的個性,忍不住稱贊狗狗聰明。

然而,人們很難忽視狗狗與兒童的相似之處。

2020年5月,在《財富》雜志撰稿人王波非的一篇關于寵物行業利潤豐厚的報道中,寫到美國人將寵物狗“人性化”的本能如何影響商業。

狗狗變成家庭成員,經常吃高價的“人類級”狗糧;寵物主通常不被稱為“主人”,而是“寵物父母”。這不僅提升了狗狗在家庭中的地位,還經常使寵物變成主人的心肝寶貝。

“19世紀是人類孩子的世紀,21世紀則是狗狗的世紀?!?019年黑爾跟瓦妮莎·伍茲合寫的《紐約時報》文章中寫道。

“多數狗不需要長時間工作, 除了愛我們之外,什么都不用做。而且狗狗在這一點上做得很好?!?/p>

漲價和收養面試

在小狗完成疫苗接種后,我們就帶它去當地公園,加入早晨一眾狗狗的行列。這是非正式,同時也保持社交距離的會面,在吵鬧、摔跤、飛跑的狗狗身旁,是極度渴望社交的新主人。

我們有很多同伴,“疫情小狗”非常多。在當地公園里,年幼的狗狗非正式地分成幾代,這也跟幼年的特殊封鎖有關。其中最小的小狗只是顫抖的小毛團,而年紀最大的已經是頑皮成熟的少年。

不久之后,我們不可避免地受邀加入WhatsApp群,人們幸福地分享訓練技巧、天氣預報和有趣的狗狗照片,而對政治或新聞則很少關注。

不過當我問起狗狗的來源,人們便打開話匣子,聊了幾個小時。一位混種貴賓犬的主人說,狗狗原來的主人要求收養者7點準時打電話,好像搶購熱門音樂會門票一樣。當七八分鐘后終于打通電話時,12只小狗只剩下了兩只。

另一位混種臘腸犬的主人坦言,曾經帶著一沓現金穿越倫敦去抱小狗,結果剛把狗抱在懷里,就聽說價格突然提高了250英鎊(約合341美元)。

很多群友也曾經試圖領養狗狗,但大多都以失敗告終。收容所說一位群友不夠“自信”;還問另一些群友是否計劃成家,如果有計劃則是什么時候。

有位本地狗狗的主人遠從羅馬尼亞找來一條救援犬,整個過程相當典型,包括兩次電話采訪、一次視頻審核,還有一次見面,最后才把狗帶回家。

另一些人表示參加過領養前的測試,主要考驗狗狗訓練知識;經過一輪輪采訪,一對夫婦發現電子郵件再也沒有收到回復。

而我的故事很簡短也很認真,就是努力從大西洋彼岸運來一只小狗,結果絲毫沒有出奇之處。

“進入銀行賬戶——錢沒了”

安迪·西蒙斯是西蘇塞克斯郡一家名為Transfur的小型家庭寵物搬遷公司的負責人,每周都會接到兩三次電話,希望他可以幫助自家的狗狗接生。但這樣的談話極少有好的結局。

“跟這些人交談時能夠很明顯感覺到,他們是詐騙的對象?!彼f?!皩Ψ揭笏麄冇脕嗰R遜的代金券或西聯匯款支付,就是騙錢。登進銀行賬戶——錢就沒了?!?/p>

經常有人將公司網頁上的詳細信息發給潛在的狗狗主人。不用說,描述的小狗并不存在。

他說,也有越來越多的人打電話希望安排小狗過境,通常來自東歐。

“我懷疑這些人是從小狗農場購買,現在發現……沒有辦法把小狗送到英國?!蔽髅伤拐f。他指出,Transfur也做不到。通常情況下,公司只可以將寵物送出國,而且是在搬家時,并不是將寵物運進來。

欺詐行為雖然并不新奇,卻是伴隨小狗價格大幅上漲可預見的副作用。

然而,運輸是個新問題。英國的養狗愛好者相當集中,長期以來一直很吸引進口狗,有些是從流浪狗眾多的國家拯救而來的,有些則是來自狗狗繁育基地,通常飼養和運輸條件相當可怕。

由于小狗走私者受打擊、疫情限制邊境流通、航班減少以及英國新脫歐規則下的進口狗海關政策混亂,依靠進口很難滿足英國人對小狗的需求。

除了價格飆升,外部供應停滯也可能導致國內一波盜狗熱潮。

很難判斷盜狗有多普遍,因為倫敦警察局并沒有區分偷狗和其他類型的財產盜竊,但慈善機構Lost Dog稱,2020年是“有史以來盜狗現象最嚴重的”一年,相關報告增加了250%。

有位退休警官現在是警犬偵探,工作簡直做不完。與此同時,去年12月英國廣播公司的一個電視節目稱,英國接二連三的盜狗案也是一種“疫情”,還引述一位不具名的情報人士稱,至少有兩個犯罪組織從販毒改為偷狗。畢竟經濟回報更大,而且往往懲罰極輕。

就連傳奇的調查新聞網站Bellingcat的創始人艾略特·希金斯也卷入其中。最近希金斯對英國《金融時報》表示,雖然他以揭露敘利亞戰爭罪行聞名,但近期卻通過破譯車牌協助,找回了一只被盜的狗。

諸多盜狗報道,再加上社交媒體上流傳丟失狗狗的主人飽含痛苦的海報,有些甚至直接從手上搶走,都引發了人們對犯罪的恐懼,讓人想起常有時髦小狗被奪走,勒索贖金的維多利亞時代的英國。

其中有個案例激發了弗吉尼亞·伍爾夫的靈感,后來寫出小說《阿弗小傳》(Flush)。

本地公園里,同行的遛狗者開始發現,附近出現了不起眼、不遛狗,還長時間拍攝狗狗的男人。在一次學習調查新聞機構Bellingcat的行動中,我的男朋友在偷拍狗狗玩耍的照片里,發現一個模糊的人影在給狗狗拍照。

當然,偷拍者可能只是不擅社交的愛狗人士,或者只是封鎖期間無聊出門散步的倫敦人。但在恐懼的氛圍中,沒有人愿意冒險。很多談話都涉及遛狗伙伴、報警哨和潛在的沖突。

群成員還在當地咖啡館貼上了印刷牌。牌上有只戴著手套的手,要抓被嚇壞的小狗,上面寫著“小心!”

疫情期間的養狗后果

在這艱難的12個月里,養狗無疑是難得的亮點。我小時候就養過很多只柯基犬,多年來一直想自己養。我的衣柜都變成了柯基主題,這對于一名31歲的女性來說略顯尷尬。

問題是不僅包括新奇的襪子和T恤,連手提包、帽子、鹽和胡椒瓶都有柯基,這些往往是家里同樣熱愛狗的家人送的禮物。

養狗之前我常常慢跑,路過其他遛狗的人時,心里很難過,總是夢想著什么時候可以養一條自己的狗。等到我的狗狗到家,就發現狂躁的狗叫和不停拉屎,換來的是擁抱、遛狗和不必專注于全球疫情的放松,相比之下,這些代價都是值得的。

很多人感覺,在如此殘酷又如此累人的一年里,養寵物狗打破了人們的外殼。

在倫敦,跟陌生人閑聊并不是常態,然而不管是慢跑者、工人還是害羞的小學生,早上散步時都愿意停下來擁抱格里夫。

在把它抱來之后的一個月里,盡管還是要戴著口罩并保持社交距離,與我聊天的人更多了,我也會對更多陌生人微笑,這是多年來沒有的經歷。

在幸福明顯短缺的時候,向小狗問好會讓人明顯且不可控制地感到幸福。

但當我寫這篇報道時,卻時常為所發現的信息而感到震驚、不安甚至羞愧。當然,對狗狗的熱愛應該保持純粹。集體的癡迷怎會產生如此巨大的泡沫,發生這樣的膨脹和扭曲,還牽扯如此多的騙局?

小狗不應該是世間純粹美好的存在嗎?

而實際情況是,需求激增明顯讓各種寵物慈善機構和養犬俱樂部感到恐慌,甚至集體做出警告稱,騙局規模龐大、狗狗繁育者動機不單純以及最終可能出現遺棄,讓新一波入坑的養狗者面臨諸多變數且未來難料。

英國的Kennel Club向我提供了2020年7月開始的研究結果,發現倫敦超過三分之一的新主人無法辨別惡劣的繁育者或騙局,約45%的人對于回到“正?!鄙钅J降囊咔楹笕绾翁幚砉饭泛翢o計劃。

從疫情開始到目前,Pets4Homes和Battersea都尚未發現小狗送到收養中心或廣告趨勢上升。

但Battersea的麥基弗警告稱,由于英國采取強制休假,封鎖期間仍然付給員工薪水,所以推遲了遺棄激增。她表示,該中心預計如果英國因為疫情而進入另一場衰退,流浪狗或被遺棄的狗狗將增加27%。(去年英國已經進入技術衰退。)Battersea和英國其他領養中心都在“默默做準備”,她說。

獸醫、慈善機構和飼養員也警告稱,狗狗在適應“正?!鄙罘绞椒矫婵赡鼙热祟惛щy,因為過去一年大部分時間里人們非??释叱黾议T,甚至去辦公室都知足。

他們警告說,如果狗狗的身邊無人長時間陪伴,獲得的注意力不夠時,就可能出現諸多分離焦慮和行為問題。

布萊恩·黑爾等人嚴肅提出建議,在疫情期間要讓狗狗多適應獨處。

但我依然不后悔養格里夫,雖然也是疫情期間的選擇。像我認識多數真心愛狗的主人一樣,我的感覺不再理性。我很清楚它不是我的孩子,客觀地說我也知道養它花了很多錢??梢哉f花費是疫情前的兩倍。

但每當我輕輕抱著會叫、會咬、會放屁的大耳朵毛團,都會深深凝望著它的眼睛。我的愛犬也注視著我,它明顯想知道我是不是會給它塊餅干,此時我會迷失在催產素誘發的愛意中。

“格里夫,”我一邊唱歌一邊在狗狗身邊跳華爾茲,“你像我愛你一樣愛我嗎?”(財富中文網)

譯者:馮豐

審校:夏林

On a Monday afternoon last September, amid a lull between nationwide U.K. lockdowns, I was forced to confront evidence that I had become obsessed.

The clues came in the form of several long email chains: one a correspondence with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs in London, where I live; another with a specialist pet shipper I had consulted in Calgary, Alberta, my hometown in Canada. Both had led me to the same conclusion. Yes, it was possible to send a puppy across international borders, in the cargo hold of one of a now sparse number of transatlantic flights during a global pandemic that had restricted human movement. It was just a terrible idea—one that would take months and costs thousands of dollars to execute. The paperwork alone would be prohibitive. The red tape involved didn’t sound that different, technically, from trying to import a show pony, or an expensive piece of art.

My efforts were a failed attempt at international arbitrage. Desperate not to go back into lockdown without a dog, at home in the U.K., I was attempting to take advantage of a relative surplus of responsibly bred, reasonably priced corgi puppies in southern Alberta. In the process, I had found myself trying to navigate a fraught market for four-legged friends marked by vicious competition for rescue dogs, sharp price hikes for pups, unscrupulous breeders, European smugglers, conniving scammers, and outright dognappers. And that was just in London.

The pandemic puppy boom is now a COVID-19 era trope around the world, with demand surging from Canada to Sweden to Spain, Brazil, Australia, and Israel. In the U.S., the intense demand initially cleared out animal shelters from Los Angeles to New York, and created a thriving cottage industry of people who will drive or fly puppies across the country on request.

Prices for puppies in the U.S. rose by 36% after the pandemic began compared with the previous year, and are still at roughly those levels, according to PuppySpot, an online listing site for breeders. Goldendoodles were the most popular breed, the site says, and for the priciest breed—English Sheepadoodles—prices have soared by almost 90%. The puppy demand could also exacerbate already mounting problems: The U.S. government, which typically buys German shepherd and Labrador puppies for the military on the open market, must compete with civilian puppy demand. Even before their elite training begins, such pups typically cost upwards of $5,500, according to Bloomberg.

Dog scams and thefts are also on the rise. In February, Lady Gaga’s dogwalker was shot and two of her French bulldogs were stolen off a street in Los Angeles. The dogs were eventually returned, but not before Gaga had offered a “no questions asked” $500,000 reward. It’s not clear if the robbers knew the dogs belonged to the pop star—or if they were simply attracted by the soaring demand for French bulldogs, who, as puppies, can now fetch prices of up to $10,000.

But as reports of dognapped Frenchies grew, the American Kennel Club quickly released guidance for worried owners. The club noted that roughly 2 million dogs are snatched per year in the U.S.?—often in order to be “flipped” to new owners—with small, high-priced dogs particularly at risk.

“These types of dogs are easy to grab and run with,” says Tom Sharp, president and CEO of AKC Reunite, the club’s dog recovery service.

Scams, too, have abounded: In November 2020, the last month for which data is available, the Better Business Bureau recorded 337 complaints of fraud involving pets, up more than 400% from the same month the previous year; they estimated that the losses from such scams in the U.S. and Canada likely topped $3 million in 2020. Meanwhile, the puppy scammers of 2020 have also innovated—requesting payment via Venmo and gift cards, or even impersonating real animal shelters, said the bureau. The scammers often used COVID-19 as a pretext for requesting additional “fees” to deliver nonexistent puppies, the Federal Trade Commission warned.

The demand—and the scams—are a product of the same phenomenon. Since the start of the pandemic, much of the world’s relatively privileged, urban populations seemed to have stockpiled the things they thought they needed most: beans, gaming systems, toilet paper—and dogs.

On the way, a passion for dogs frequently and collectively tipped into something closer to a society-wide obsession—and created bizarre and sometimes disturbing distortions of supply and demand along the way. Unlike toilet paper, moreover, this wasn’t a passing phase. I should know. I spent months thinking of little else.

A very cuddly commodity

By the time my boyfriend and I finally found a puppy in the autumn, in a race-against-the-clock dash down empty highways as a second nationwide lockdown loomed, a pattern had been established. We were officially part of the Great Pandemic Puppy Boom.

Griff, a Pembroke Welsh corgi who is passionate about chewing sticks, tackling other puppies, and eating disgusting stuff he finds in the park, is himself part of a historical moment: a generation of dogs who have known only the pandemic era, and so have only known depressed, needy, ever-present humans, whose only hobby or source of social comfort is taking them for walks.

Of course nobody, least of all me, likes to think of their beloved dog as a commodity. But during the pandemic, for better and sometimes for worse, that’s often what puppies were: not just a commodity, but a hot one.

The U.K., a dog-obsessed island nation—which has spent half of the past year in nationwide lockdowns, and now finds its borders constrained by both a pandemic and Brexit—is the perfect petri dish for this obsession.

Over the course of the past year, British puppy prices on the poorly regulated open market rose and rose, in an eerie mirror of the frothy stock market. In May 2020, as the first British lockdown ended, one online site, Pets4Homes, saw serious inquiries rise to 420 per listed puppy. By November 2020, the last month for which full figures were available, puppy prices were 2.3 times as high as the 2019 average, the site said, vaulting into the thousands of pounds—not quite Bitcoin levels, but significantly outperforming the S&P 500.

Meanwhile, a league table of poodle mixes, terriers, and bulldogs proved the frantic demand for buzzy breeds: cavapoos took first place, with 1,882 interested buyers per puppy, while the most expensive breed— appropriately enough—was the English bulldog. By mid-2020, the breed closely associated with Winston Churchill would set you back, on average, about £3,000 ($4,100).

There have been lulls, of course, but they tend to be closely linked to the restrictions Britons are facing. When those restrictions are loose, people buy dogs; when they are tight—as they are now—people look for them. (By mid-January 2021, with the U.K. in lockdown for the third time, inquiries per puppy were down from the heights of 2020, but were still hovering above 200.) When Lee Gibson, Pets4Homes’ U.K. managing director, looks at the site’s viewer numbers, he says the pattern looks almost like three peaks—one for each national lockdown.

It hasn’t just been pedigree dogs bought online—adoptions, too, have surged. As the U.K.’s first lockdown loomed last March, Battersea, the famous London dogs and cats home, saw applications to rehome animals spike. In one week in May, the adoption center saw 5,000 applications to rehome a dog, according to Becky MacIver, Battersea’s rehoming and welfare manager. Lately, the dogs the center does receive get adopted more quickly, she added, and puppies can usually be rehomed in a matter of a days.

The power of “puppy dog eyes”

Throughout history, dogs have held many roles for us, says Brian Hare, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University and coauthor of The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think. Dogs have been bed warmers, hunting buddies, “and when not much else was around, we ate them.”

So what is it about them that now seems to so overwhelm us? While humans hardly need much encouragement to enter a buying frenzy—see the GameStop rally of early 2021—it would be cynical to pretend there wasn’t something special about our relationship with dogs.

In fact, that bond is often attributed to a stroke of evolutionary genius. The development of eye muscles, which allows dogs to raise their eyebrows and make their eyes look particularly large—i.e., “puppy dog eyes”—is powerful because it mimics the expressions of human babies, who use eye contact to bond with adults before they can speak or otherwise communicate. The eye contact produces oxytocin, encouraging your brain to feel loving and nurturing, and extending and deepening your own eye contact—sending oxytocin right back.

“When your dog stares into your eyes, they are hijacking the oxytocin loop usually reserved for parents and their babies,” Hare says. “Your dog is hugging you with their eyes.”

Our modern-grade obsession with dogs—with its attendant Instagram accounts, custom clothes, doggie day cares, and high price tags—has often been dismissed as a side effect of lonely societies, or a harsh outcome of falling fertility rates and delayed childbirth. (The pandemic, which was initially touted as an opportunity for a baby boom, seems to have had the opposite effect on American couples.) But Hare also offers a pragmatic, pre-pandemic theory.

“Anyone who remembers owning a dog before the turn of the millennium would be familiar with the ‘bath and a prayer’ method of flea control,” he says. Until the 21st century, when modern veterinary medicine reduced flea control to a couple of pills hidden in some peanut butter, dogs—out of necessity—were frequently relegated to the outside world. But once we had successfully banished the fleas, they were suddenly welcome on the couch—even the bed. We were entranced, he argues: besotted with their personalities, prone to marveling at their ingenuity.

The parallel to children, however, is hard to miss. In a May 2020 story on the lucrative pet industry, Fortune writer Phil Wahba reported on the business impact of Americans’ instinct to “humanize” their dogs. These dogs are part of the family: They often eat high-priced, “human grade” dog food; and pet executives universally refer not to “owners” but to “pet parents.” This has elevated dogs not just into our families, but often made them their beating heart.

“As the 19th century was for human children, the 21st century is for the dog,” Hare wrote, in a 2019 piece for the New York Times with his coauthor, Vanessa Woods.

“Most dogs are not required to work long hours. Most are required not to do anything at all, except love us. And this they do very well.”

Price hikes and adoption interviews

As soon as our puppy was fully vaccinated, we brought him to our local park, where he joined the ranks of the local morning Puppy Rumble—an informal, socially distanced meeting of rowdy, wrestling, humping pups, and their socially starved new owners.

We had plenty of company: There were so many “pandemic puppies” that the younger dogs in our local park are informally divided into generations, linked to the particular lockdown in which they spent their formative puppyhood. The youngest are just quivering puffs of fur; the oldest are already naughty, fully grown adolescents.

It quickly became clear the community element did not extend to merely an hour’s exercise on rainy London mornings. Shortly after, we were invited to join the inevitable WhatsApp group, where training tips, weather reports, and funny dog photos are blissfully prioritized over any hint of politics or news.

But when I thought to ask the group for stories of their dogs’ origins, the cathartic outpouring lasted for hours. One owner of a poodle mix recounted being instructed to call the breeder at exactly 7 p.m.—as if for a hot concert ticket. By the time they got through, seven or eight minutes later, there were only two of the 12 puppies left. Another owner of a dachshund mix confessed she’d made the trip across London with a wad of cash to collect her puppy, only to be told—once she had the dog in her arms—that the price had suddenly been raised by £250 ($341).

Many in the group had also attempted to rescue a dog, and most had been unsuccessful. One was told by a shelter that she wasn’t “confident” enough; others received invasive questions on whether they planned to start a family, and if so, when.

For one local dog owner who did get a rescue dog brought over from Romania, the process—fairly typically—involved two phone interviews, a video house inspection, and a meet-and-greet before they could take the dog home. Others said they had gone through pre-adoption quizzes to test their knowledge of dog training; after rounds of interviews, one couple found their emails simply stopped being returned.

My story, of briefly but seriously trying to import a puppy from across the Atlantic, turned out not to be surprising at all.

“Goes into a bank account—gone”

Two or three times a week, Andy Symons, the director of a small family-owned West Sussex pet relocation company called Transfur, gets a call from someone who is expecting him to deliver his or her dog. The conversation rarely ends well.

“When you get talking to these people, it becomes very apparent they have been the subject of a scam,” he says. “They’ve been asked to pay with Amazon vouchers or by Western Union, and it’s just money down the drain. Goes into a bank account—gone.”

The company’s details have typically been lifted off its website and handed out to would-be owners. The puppy, needless to say, does not exist.

The calls also increasingly come from people who are trying to arrange transit for a puppy, typically from Eastern Europe, he says. “My suspicion is these are people buying from puppy farms and now find themselves…with no means of getting them to the U.K.,” says Symons. Transfur is not in a position to do these jobs, he notes; typically, the company only sends pets out of the country, usually when families relocate, rather than bringing them in.

The increase in outright scamming, though not novel, is one predictable side effect of the enormous rise in puppy prices. The transport problems, however, are something new. The concentration of dog lovers in the U.K. has long attracted imported dogs—both rescued street dogs from countries with large stray populations, and puppy-farmed dogs typically reared and transported in horrendous conditions. But the combination of a crackdown on puppy smugglers, COVID-19 border restrictions, decreased flights, and hopelessly muddled customs policies for imported dogs under the U.K.’s messy new Brexit trade rules, seem to have made it newly difficult to meet British puppy demand through shady imports.

Alongside the huge price spikes, that shutdown of outside supply may have led to a wave of domestic dognapping. Though it’s difficult to tell how common dognapping is—the Metropolitan Police don’t distinguish between dog theft and property theft of other kinds—one charity, Lost Dog, called 2020 the “worst ever” year for dog thefts, with reports up 250%; a retired police officer who now works as a dog detective has more work than he can possibly take on. A BBC TV spot in December, meanwhile, called the spate of British dognappings an “epidemic” and quoted an unnamed intelligence source who said that at least two criminal organizations had pivoted their operations from drug dealing to dog theft. After all, the financial rewards were larger, and the penalties tend to be surprisingly small.

Even Eliot Higgins, the founder of legendary investigative journalism site Bellingcat, has gotten involved. While best known for exposing war crimes in Syria, Higgins recently told the Financial Times he had helped find a stolen dog through a deciphered license plate.

These reports, paired with anguished posters circulating on social media of dog owners whose pets have sometimes been wrenched from their arms, have raised fears of a crime that harkens back to Victorian England, when posh puppies were held for ransom; one such case helped inspire the Virginia Woolf novel Flush.

In our local park, fellow dog walkers began spotting nondescript, dog-less men standing nearby and filming the dogs for long stretches; in a Bellingcat-style move, my boyfriend found blurry pictures of one dog-filmer lurking in the background of candid shots of doggy playtime. (In a non-Bellingcat move, nobody could make out his face.)

Of course, the filmers could simply be socially awkward dog lovers, or just bored Londoners, out for yet another lockdown walk. But in this atmosphere of fear, no one wants to take any chances. Many conversations revolve around dog-walking buddies, collar alarms, and potential confrontations. Members of the group have papered the local cafés with printed signs. They show a gloved hand reaching for a cowering puppy and the words “WATCH OUT!”

The pandemic puppy backlash

Getting a dog has, undoubtedly, been a rare bright spot in a trying 12 months. I grew up with multiple corgis and had wanted a dog for years. My wardrobe had come to be, for a 31-year-old woman, embarrassingly corgi themed; the problem was not just the novelty socks and T-shirts, but the tote bags, hats, and salt and pepper shakers, often presents from my dog-obsessed family back home.

Before we got our dog, I used to jog, sadly, past the other dog walkers, dreaming of when I’d have one of my own. Once he arrived, I found the manic yapping and constant pooping a fair price to pay for the cuddling, the walks, and the sheer distraction from a global pandemic.

In a year that has been so brutal, so tiring, for so many, pandemic puppies broke down people’s shells. In London, where small talk with strangers is not the norm, joggers, workmen, and shy schoolkids would all stop on morning walks to cuddle Griff. In the month after we got him, despite masks and social distancing, I talked to more people, smiled at more strangers, than I had in years. Saying hello to a puppy made people visibly, irrepressibly happy—at a time when happiness was so clearly in short supply.

And yet, when reporting this story, I found myself frequently fielding twinges of alarm, discomfort, even shame. Surely, puppy love was one thing that should remain pure. How could this collective obsession have produced an apparent bubble so fizzy, so distorted, and so scam-ridden? Shouldn’t puppies be the one thing that is just good?

And yet, the surge in demand has openly horrified the various dog charities and kennel clubs, which have collectively warned of the scale of the scams, the incentives for puppy farmers, and the prospect of eventual abandonment, painting a fickle and uninformed picture of this new wave of dog owners.

The U.K.’s Kennel Club provided me with results of a study from July 2020, which found that more than a third of new London dog owners were not confident they could have spotted a rogue breeder or a scam, and about 45% had done no planning on what would happen to their new dog after they went back to “normal” life post-pandemic.

Neither Pets4Homes nor Battersea has so far seen a notable upward trend toward more young dogs being either turned over to the center, or advertised, since the pandemic began. But MacIver of Battersea warns me that the U.K.’s furlough scheme to keep workers earning wages during lockdowns had only delayed the expected surge. The center expects a 27% increase in stray or abandoned dogs if the U.K. enters another recession as a result of the pandemic, she says. (The country already entered a technical recession once last year.) Battersea, and other centers across the U.K., are “quietly preparing,” she says.

Vets, charities and breeders, too, are warning that dogs may have much more trouble adjusting to a return to “normality” than the humans who have spent much of the last year desperate to get out of the house, even just to go to the office. They warn that they expect an epidemic of separation anxiety and behavioral problems when the dogs no longer have constant company and attention. Brian Hare, among others, offered strict advice to start providing pandemic dogs and puppies plenty of practice of being alone.

But I can’t regret getting Griff, even during a pandemic. Like most of the devoted dog owners I know, my feelings aren’t even rational anymore. I know he’s not my child, and I know, objectively, that he cost money: double, if you must know, the pre-pandemic going rate.

But whenever I cradle my barking, nipping, farting ball of big-eared fur, I look deep into his eyes. I get lost in a one-sided oxytocin loop as he stares right back at me, transparently wondering whether I’m about to give him a cookie.

“Griffy,” I sing, waltzing him around the room. “Do you love me as much as I love you?”

最新:
  • 熱讀文章
  • 熱門視頻
活動
掃碼打開財富Plus App
被强奷的美女正在播放,中文字幕无码第1页,亚洲欧美精品一区二区三区,美女校花被拖到野外强奷视频