‘Pandemic puppies' could lead to more abandoned pets, warns Sheffield animal charity
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New research by insurance company petGuard has found that the lockdown 'puppy boom' is causing a crisis at animal shelters across the country following high demand for kittens and puppies during the pandemic.
It said animal shelter Pets4Homes saw seven million pet owners searching for a four-legged friend at the peak of the puppy boom in May 2020.
According to the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association, around 3.2 million households have welcomed a new pet since the start of the pandemic, leading to a 23 per cent increase in pet ownership last year.
Meanwhile, animal welfare charity Dogs Trust reported a 50 per cent rise in pet owners calling to hand over their dogs between May and July 2020.
This means, the long-lasting effects of the pandemic could see as many as 25,000 dogs abandoned over the next five years, according to the Battersea Covid Research Project.
And this prospect has caused concern among animal rescuers, with the RSPCA calling for the public to always consider their financial consequences and if their circumstances were to change before owning a pet.
Dr Samantha Gaines, head of the RSPCA's companion animals department, said: “Many pets will have found their perfect forever homes during the last months - and that’s something to really celebrate.
“However, sadly, abandoned animals is something frontline RSPCA officers have always dealt with in significant numbers - and we fear the combination of a surge in spur-of-the-moment pet ownership during the pandemic, the change in people's circumstances as some normality continues to return, and the economic impacts of the pandemic, could all be a 'perfect storm' for more abandonments.
“With coronavirus restrictions still upon us to different extents, and the full economic impact of the pandemic yet to be realised, it is still very early to draw conclusions about what the upcoming impacts will be on animal welfare, and in particular pet abandonments.
“However, we remain on high alert for a potential surge in abandonments and continue to urge anyone struggling with the realities of pet ownership to seek help. Research is so important before adding a dog, or any other pet, to the family. Pet ownership can be so rewarding - but it's also a huge, long-term commitment.
“The RSPCA would urge anyone to consider the financial consequences - including if their circumstances were to change - and to remember that Covid restrictions won't last forever; so it's important to be confident you can meet your pet's needs when full normality hopefully soon returns.
“There’s loads to think about - and there’s a wealth of information on the RSPCA website for prospective pet owners.
“If a new pet is right for both you and the animal - a rescue companion is an amazing, rewarding choice; and we'd urge anyone interested to check out our Find a Pet database on our website.
“If families would still prefer to buy a puppy, we’re encouraging them to use The Puppy Contract. This is a free online tool that will help find responsible breeders and a happy, healthy dog.”