The poor pups…

Wendy Ward

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Labrador dog behind green bars

Animal charities have been inundated with unwanted pets over recent months, as some owners of ‘lockdown puppies’ struggled to look after them when they returned to their respective workplaces/jobs.


Providing the perfect excuse to get out and about when lockdowns prevented the nation from doing almost anything else, many households enriched their outdoor exercise with the purchase of a dog. During lockdown, people on furlough had the time and attention to take care of a dog. Families withkids in the house, being home-schooled, may have though a cute little puppy would bring a little light to their lives during what was a dark time.


According to the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association a total of 3.2 million households in the UK acquired a pet following the start of the pandemic. Young people were the main drivers of this trend, with more than half of new owners aged 16 to 34.


These pups, however, were used to everyone being in the house during lockdown. With no training schools open until a few months ago, owners were left to deal with any behavioural issues their dogs developed once life returned to some sort of normal.


Going back to work and school left these naturally excitable and exuberant animals alone for many hours in some households. Bored dogs can take their anxiety and frustration out on the house’s fixtures and furniture, which can be upsetting for their owners; however, putting the dog in a crate to prevent this can be just as harrowing for both human and animal. Separation anxiety can also result in dogs barking or howling for hours at a time, making their owners unpopular with their neighbours.


There’s a financial consideration, too. Dog owners who were on furlough throughout the pandemic could perhaps afford to keep their pets when they were receiving government support; however, if they were made redundant after the scheme ended, the financial pressure may have proved too much for some and rehousing their dog may have been the only option.


For these reasons and more, a proportion of dogs purchased/rescued in lockdown became superfluous, a nuisance, and a drain on their owners’ time. As a result, animal shelters have seen a huge surge in the number of abandoned dogs they’ve had to deal with as well as pups requiring rehousing.


Go back a year and owners were worried about the number of dog-nappings in their area, such was the demand for less common breeds and puppies. Now that demand has dropped significantly, there are numerous adverts on local noticeboards featuring such dogs for sale.

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Sick dog lying on medical table while young veterinarian specialist examines patient

Sick dog lying on medical table while young veterinarian specialist examines patient

In September, The Dogs Trust said it had seen a 35% increase in calls related to giving up dogs, with the majority of reasons being a change in the owner’s circumstances. They also reported that traffic to the ‘giving up your dog’ pages of their website had increased more than 180% in July compared to pre-pandemic visits.


This increased demand for dog rehousing and rescue services comes at a time when charity donations are much lower than they were before the pandemic. This has seen many third sector organisations running emergency appeals in a desperate attempt to save all the animals brought to their door.


Unfortunately, as if this isn’t enough of a burden, not every unwanted pet is healthy. The huge demand for puppies in lockdown saw an increase in unethical practices by (unlicensed) breeders, which has resulted in rescue shelters being overrun with dogs that have long-term, chronic conditions—conditions that need a lot of care and expensive treatments.


Luna Animal Rescue in Arlesey is battling through the situation as best it can, despite admitting that its funds are ‘hugely depleted’. Volunteer at the centre, Jade Green, says, ‘Rescues are overwhelmed and working at 150 per cent more than usual. Everyone's bursting at the seams, we have just about kept afloat. If you’re thinking about giving your animal to a rescue - it doesn't end there.’


Chris Kelly, who runs Coolronan Dog Rescue in Ballivor, Co Meath, echoes Jade’s words. He says, ‘We couldn’t handle the amount of phone calls we were getting every day from people wanting to surrender their dogs. We hadn’t had a pup in 15 months but a few weeks ago I had to rescue five abandoned lurcher pups who were almost starved to death. It’s heart-breaking to see.


‘All of the dogs that were bought in the pandemic have issues now—they’re not socialised, they were bought as babysitters for parents working from home…there’s so much work to be done with them.’ The couple urged readers of the Irish Mirror ‘not to give up on their dog, as the fear of healthy canines having to be put down remains a threat.’


A sad time indeed.


If you run an animal charity and would like help to boost your income through grant funding, call Wendy Ward, Charity Growth Consultant, on 0114 350 3354 or email wendy@letssave.biz.

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