The high price of puppies has created an equity problem, with some people unable to afford one, Cardiff vet Andrew Cornwell says.
Mr Cornwell gave the example of a single person living on their own, with a low income.
He said this type of person would "probably be more likely to suffer from mental health issues, so would probably benefit the most from having a pet".
"Animals are great for your mental health. The human-animal bond is very strong," he said.
Puppy prices have risen dramatically during the pandemic, with people stuck at home in lockdown and seeking a companion.
"There has been a reduction in supply and a significant increase in demand," Mr Cornwell said.
"That has put enormous upward pressure on prices. The prices of dogs have gone through the roof."
He said vets "shake our heads" at the prices for puppies nowadays.
"It's extraordinary. Back 20 years, you'd go to the Herald classifieds and puppies were given away to a good home."
He said it was a reasonable assumption that "if people have paid a lot of money for a puppy, they're more likely to take care of it". But he added: "It does create inequity."
Depending on their breed and pedigree, puppies can sell in the Hunter from about $1500 to $9000.
For example, French bulldogs are selling for $5500 to $9000, Australian bulldogs for $6000, King Charles spaniels for $5500, pomeranian/mini poodles for $5000, miniature dachshunds for $3800 to $5000, dachshunds for $4500, purebred poodles for $4000, pugs for $3800, purebred border collies for $4000, American bulldogs for $3500, purebred Jack Russell terriers for $3500, chihuahuas for $3500, shih tzus for $3000, boxers for $2800, English staffies for $2700, rottweilers for $2300 and kelpies for $1500.
The NSW government established the Puppy Factory Taskforce last October, with more funding for the RSPCA to crack down on illegal puppy factories [also known as puppy farms]. The RSPCA has raided numerous puppy factories.
"From our end of things, we're seeing fewer issues in puppies," said Mr Cornwell, the former Liberal MP for Charlestown.
But he said the rise in puppy prices "has a knock-on effect".
"It might make it attractive for some of the less scrupulous operators to try and get involved again. It is something the RSPCA will need to keep a close eye on."
Hunter breeders say the price of puppies is related to supply and demand. They say the cost of breeding puppies and the time and effort involved are also factors.
Some aren't seeking profit, they just break even. Designer dogs, though, can go for high prices because they're trendy.
French bulldog breeder Rhianna Gresham, of Salt Ash, said some breeders hadn't changed their prices.
"They don't sell anything for less than a certain price anyway," Ms Gresham said.
"My prices depend on factors such as costs to produce the litter, how many I have in a litter and the time involved."
The costs of breeding puppies include special food, vet bills, vaccination, deworming, bedding, creating a safe, comfortable environment, puppy pads for toileting, DNA testing and stud fees.
Sometimes vets are needed to deliver puppies by caesarean section. Some breeds, such as French bulldogs, can require artificial insemination as they don't mate easily.
Ms Gresham imports semen from the US, Ireland and England, which costs "a lot of money".
While many breeders care deeply for the puppies, others don't put the time, effort and money in.
Ms Gresham said it was important for buyers to research breeders.
"You do get people selling puppies cheaply, but cheap isn't always better. They can have health problems. They're the ones not breeding quality dogs. They're the ones doing the harm to the market."
Some see puppies as a money-making venture.
"They're looking for a quick buck, not realising how much is actually involved in producing a litter," Ms Gresham said.
Scammers are a problem.
"If you can't Facetime a breeder and see that pup, you shouldn't be handing over money." Ms Gresham said.
Pete Clarke, of Alaula Tenterfield Terriers on the Central Coast, said scammers had "become more sophisticated by using legitimate BIN [breeder identification numbers] and microchip codes".
Reputable breeders breed dogs to ensure good health, temperament and quality.
"The point of being a registered breeder is you have clean, traceable bloodlines," said Mr Clarke, who is a Dogs NSW registered breeder.
"We work to eradicate genetic disease. That means we know the health history of the dogs that we breed, going back a long way."
Good breeders keep in close contact with buyers, sending them videos, photos and important information about raising puppies.
When the puppies are delivered or picked up, good breeders provide puppy packs with information about a healthy diet, vaccination, worming, flea and tick treatments and dental care. They often give samples of food.
They'll provide the blanket the puppy has been using to help it settle into its "forever home". They guarantee the health of puppies and offer help to discuss any growth or behavioural concerns as the puppy develops, with advice on force-free positive-reward behaviour training.
Registered breeders have serious concerns about unregistered breeders, also known as "backyard breeders".
Mr Cornwell said these days puppies can be "tracked back to the breeder very easily through the microchipping system".
But he said the NSW government "can't control animals coming in from interstate". "If someone is breeding in another state, which doesn't quite have the same husbandry standards that we do in NSW, we can't do anything about it."
Mr Cornwell said breeders were generally "very well meaning", doing it for love, not money.
"But it only takes a few bad apples to create problems."
Dogs NSW, the peak body for purebred dogs and responsible breeding, recommends researching the temperament of breeds and speaking to Dogs NSW breed clubs before buying a puppy.
Dogs NSW media representative Brian Crump said "the advantage of buying from one of our breeders is you are buying a known product".
"You know it will conform to a certain standard in terms of size, temperament and health testing," he said.
"When you buy from a non-Dogs NSW registered breeder, you don't always know what you're buying. And the prices can be extremely high."
Mr Crump said puppies from Dogs NSW breeders were cheaper than those sold elsewhere.
"You're getting value and a code of ethics," he said.