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Dogs bought during pandemic lockdowns are being given up to rescue centres as strays

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COMMENT ON THE NEWS: This report comes from Wales and Hope Rescue in Rhondda Cynon Taf. I don’t know if their reporting is applicable to other areas of the UK but it is concerning nonetheless. We know that during the pandemic lockdowns there were about 3.2 million new adoptions of mainly dogs and some cats. The reason is obvious. People had all the time on their hands that they could wish for and they decided to entertain themselves with a companion animal. They seized the moment. At that time they were at home often doing nothing while receiving furlough money.

Cockapoos are popular during the pandemic lockdown

Cockapoos were popular during the pandemic lockdown. How many have been given up to rescue centres? Image by Paul Mears from Pixabay

At that time too, a lot of prominent animal charities were saying that when the pandemic came to an end there would be a lot of pets abandoned to rescue centres. That moment it seems has come about. We are now getting reports that people are trying to sell their dogs on websites such as Gumtree. When that fails – I guess it does fail because there are a lot of dogs being relinquished and therefore sold – they go to a rescue centre such as Hope Rescue and say that they have found a stray dog.

This means that the dog gets prioritised for rehoming. I guess the people know this. They are offloading their dogs which they would rather sell because no doubt they spent a lot of money acquiring the animals at inflated prices. The upshot is that Hope Rescue is saturated with rescue dogs. They are at capacity (150) and they’ve become acutely aware of a large number of fake stray dogs being offered to them.

Sarah Rosser, Head of Welfare at Hope Rescue Centre said: “We have to take stray dogs and so fake strays are jumping the queue ahead of dogs that really are abandoned. It is definitely unprecedented numbers at the moment.”

She said that the rescues are full. I don’t know whether she means in the UK generally or in her part of Wales. I have read earlier that the problem is not as bad as she states but perhaps things have developed. Certainly, people have gone back to work in the conventional way and therefore those lazy hazy days of summer during lockdown are history.

They are finding out that they don’t have the commitment or the time or perhaps even the funding to look after their dogs properly. In addition, it appears that a lot of these dogs were bred at puppy mills abroad and are, therefore, unhealthy. The problem is further compounded by the fact that they’ve not been socialised properly because of the abnormal situation that the dogs found themselves in during lockdown. The dogs are nervous and some have behavioural problems.

This obviously makes rehoming more difficult. Of course, Hope Rescue have skilled people who can socialise these dogs and improve their behaviour but they find themselves in a very difficult situation.

The story of Hope Rescue is on the BBC and it has hit the online newspapers virally. The shocking part of the story is that, as mentioned, people are lying about their dogs in claiming that they are strays rather than bought purebred dogs. In fact, I would expect the rescue centre to be able to recognise a purebred dog because it’s unlikely purebreds are going to be stray dogs.

The Dogs Trust has chipped in by warning that there is a looming crisis on the horizon. They expect more people to give away dogs that they purchased during lockdown. Last month the charity said they had seen a 35% increase in calls from dog owners wishing to relinquish their pets.

And, The Kennel Club also warned that the UK was facing a “welfare crisis for pandemic pups” unless the dogs could be taken to the workplace. That, actually, is happening in some workplaces. The more enlightened employer is allowing workplace pets but it is not widespread. In any case, I don’t think that is the complete solution. It is part of the problem but the real issue is that people who bought dogs during the pandemic lockdowns didn’t really fully understand the responsibilities involved. You might argue that they were impulsive purchases.

They didn’t really consider all the aspects of dog ownership. They didn’t investigate the origin of the dogs. They were unconcerned about the health of the animals that they were adopting. This facilitated the unscrupulous puppy mill owners in marketing and selling poor quality dogs. I feel sorry for these dogs who’ve been put through a tough time.

It is sad that the companion animal marketplace was heavily distorted by Covid. It still is and the ramifications of Cobra it will be felt within animal rescue for a long time to come.