As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the UK spent most of 2020 in some form of lockdown. During this time, there was a shift to remote working to help promote social distancing measures and minimise the spread of Covid-19.
Lockdown saw us all spending more hours at home with a lot more spare time on our hands, and many people saw this as the perfect opportunity to add a new pet to the family. This was particularly true for dogs, which were the most popular choice of pet to buy during the pandemic.
But with restrictions having eased, it seems that more and more lockdown dogs are now being abandoned by their owners.
'Dogs are for life, not just for lockdown'
Since the start of the pandemic, the PFMA have confirmed that 3.2 million households have acquired a pet, with over 12 millions dogs now in homes across the UK.
Dogs were seen as a way to gain companionship, with 74% of new owners claiming their pet helped their mental health during lockdown, but also as a reason to exercise and stay active during the pandemic.
Throughout 2020, Google searches for 'buying a puppy' skyrocketed. So much so that Dogs Trust changed their slogan to 'dogs are for life, not just for lockdown'. Unfortunately, it seems Dogs Trust was right to fear the uptake of UK pet purchases.
Why are people giving away their pups?
Restrictions lifting saw us all with more freedom, but unfortunately it also saw many people reconsidering their lockdown dogs.
With only 15% of UK employees having a pet friendly office environment, many owners are now having to rethink what to do with their dog when they return to work, and with a dog that has been used to your company 24/7, it can be a very difficult transition for them. This, along with the rise back to normal in socialising, is a huge challenge that many people did not anticipate.
But not only are owner's circumstances changing, the cute little puppies they brought home are now boisterous teenagers needing more attention than ever. With the multiple behavioural issues that can arise in a lockdown dog, many people just haven’t got the time or money to put into training their pup.
The UK’s demand for dogs was at an all time high during the Covid-19 pandemic, which sadly resulted in many puppy smugglers and illegal breeders cashing in on the lucrative market.
With desperate buyers making it easy for ‘breeders’ to conceal the origins of their puppies, many are being purchased with unknown health issues. With rising vet bills and insurance prices, this is another reason owners are choosing to consider adoption. Make sure you know what to look out for when buying a puppy online.
Increasing numbers of dogs being abandoned as strays
With so many homes now reconsidering their lockdown additions, it makes you wonder what is happening to these poor pups...
Many owners attempt to recoup the extortionate amounts they paid for their puppy by listing them for sale online. This can be very risky as there is little to no policing on a lot of these sites.
After failing to sell their dog online, there have been reports that many people are actually disguising their lockdown dogs as strays and reporting them to the dog warden as abandoned. A lot of the time it is believed that they are too impatient to wait for space at a rescue, or too embarrassed about handing the dog in.
Dogs Trust has seen a 35% increase in calls about giving up dogs, and with many charities and rescues struggling with the current situation, it is only expected to carry on for the foreseeable future.
As well as the concerns over the steep rise in dogs being abandoned, there are also worries that those owners who are keeping their lockdown dogs, are not preparing them for a world post Covid.
“Many of our pets are now used to having us around all the time while others have never known any different so we have real concerns that life post-lockdown, both in terms of a new routine and spending time alone, could be really difficult for them to adjust to which is why it’s so important that owners start to prepare them now. In the absence of this preparation, pets could be facing their own crisis.”
- Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA pet welfare expert.
How can I help?
With charities and rescues struggling so much under the influx of lockdown dogs, there are many ways you can help out...
Dogs Trust 'Change The Tale' campaign is going the extra mile to help dogs coming out the other side of the Covid crisis. Help them keep their Dog Ambulances running to cover the UK, collecting those dogs most at risk.
A simple Google of 'dog rescues near me' can show you your local rescue centres and charities which, without a doubt, would be grateful for any donations you can make.
Have you got a family member or friend who has got a lockdown puppy? Do you think they're struggling now that life is heading back to normality? Are you able to offer any support? Maybe a couple of dog walks a week, or an evening of dog sitting would be all they need to alleviate some of the stress.
We all know the benefits of adding a pup to the family, but to help fight the rise of dogs being given up to rescues, the best way to help is by simply being sure you are ready for a dog. Before diving into dog ownership, there are many things you need to consider first;
Have you got the time?
Your new puppy will initially need most of your attention. As it grows older, you will always need to organise your day around them, dog walks, mealtimes etc. When working from home is no longer an option, what happens with your pup?
Are you ready for training?
Unfortunately, puppies don't come ready trained. The older they get, the harder it gets to train them, so you need to put the effort in at the start.
Can you afford it?
Even after the initial cost of buying your new dog, in the long run, some can cost the same as running a car. Food, vet bills, insurance etc. it all adds up!
Dogs can be like having another child in the family, and like children, there is a chance they can live at home until the age of 18, so be sure to consider this when thinking about your future companion.
Please remember, a dog is for life, not just for lockdown.