NEWS AND VIEWS: Some people need to put a break on their desire to adopt a dog companion at the moment. Like many other countries, since March, the UK has been in a lockdown or a series of mini-lockdowns. Peoples’ way of life has been severely disrupted. Many of those in employment risk losing their jobs or they’ve disappeared. Weddings have been cancelled as have holidays and indeed many of the usual forms of entertainment have gone west. It seems to me that a lot of people have felt the need to adopt a dog to plug a gap in their lives. A gap which has opened up because of what we all hope is a temporary state of affairs, the pandemic.
The Guardian newspaper mentions a couple of stories which indicates that some people are adopting dogs at the time when they should reflect for a bit longer before they do so. Josh Seymour, a 31-year-old theatre director in London, found his career going into “freefall” during the lockdown. His life had lost the structure of employment. Everyone needs structure in their lives to keep them on the straight and narrow. He said, “The whole period before I got Barney was kind of shapeless. I was staying up late and sleeping in”. He said that Barney is good for his mental health. Barney has added some structure to his life and in a simplistic way given him a purpose. But when life gets back to normal, if it ever will, will he feel the same way about dog ownership? Will he find it a bit of a struggle having the responsibility of looking after a dog companion and working normally?
Certainly, I sense that a lot of new dog owners were not completely clear about the responsibility that they were taking on. Another new dog owner, Jess Austin, has confessed that being a dog guardian is a little bit more involved than she had thought. She is a 31-year-old filmmaker from Brighton. She bought a puppy in May during the initial lockdown. The puppy is a Cavapoo, one of these cute new small dog breeds which people are so fond of. The reasons she gives for the adoption rings bells to me. She said, “I wanted something positive to come out of lockdown”. Her wedding had been cancelled and her new dog, Otis, filled the gap. This is clearly another case where her attitude towards dog ownership may change when normality is reinstated although the world will never be quite the same again.
I’m not the only one who thinks that there will be a spate of dog abandonments to rescue centres in the not too distant future. One of those is the RSPCA’s Dr Samantha Gaines. She said there has been a huge increase in demand and interest in dogs between March 1 and April 19 on the RSPCA’s “find a pet” search tool. And the insurance provider PetPlan has also seen a 15% increase between March and June. It’s all liable to go horribly wrong at the end of the day.
And of course most of us know about the scammers who have dived in to supply this demand for small, cute dogs some of them flat-faced which is another health problem. The law has changed to prevent unscrupulous dog breeders from abroad importing dogs into the country. These dogs are unhealthy which is very sad for the dogs. There have been many disappointed dog adopters because of this problem. But can the country enforce these new regulations? I would doubt it. You’ll still find the unscrupulous breeders and sellers of cute dogs despite the introduction of Lucy’s Law in April 2020. Under this law all animals must come directly from a breeder or rescue centre.
The shame is that many of the new dog adoptions are of purebred dogs, bred by breeders. What about the rescue dogs of which there are many? This is the great problem: people are feeding their instinctive desire to adopt a cute dog when more people should be adopting unwanted dogs. It’s well known. People say it all the time but here, during lockdown, we have that instinctively incorrect human behaviour coming out.