Dogs Trust is predicting tens of thousands of stray or abandoned dogs could need help as a result of the pandemic – and warns it’s already starting to see the impact of the Coronavirus crisis.
Demand for puppies has soared during lockdown, with Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ increasing by 166% since lockdown was announced on 23 March.
But as the UK braces itself for the full economic impact of the pandemic, the charity is warning we could see a sharp rise in the number of dogs being given up or put to sleep if families struggle to cope with the resulting hardships of the crisis.
Dogs Trust estimates that we could see up to 40,000 more stray or abandoned dogs in need of help, especially if – as economists indicate – we see a financial crisis on par or worse than the crash of 2008, which saw a 25.6% increase in stray and abandoned dogs the year after.
However, experts at Dogs Trust warn that the fallout of this pandemic could worsen as we anticipate more dogs being abandoned due to behaviour problems like separation anxiety, which could develop either during, or as a result of lockdown.
Last year, the charity’s annual Stray Dog Survey found that 46% of dogs in local authority kennels were left with nowhere to turn and needed the support of welfare organisations like Dogs Trust.
However, if enough safe rescue shelter space cannot be found for dogs taken in by local authorities, euthanasia rates could also increase by up to 25% in the next year as was seen in 2009 following the recession – meaning over 1,800 dogs in local authority shelters could be put to sleep unnecessarily.
Bobby is a Lhasa Apso who was found abandoned in June. His coat was matted and overgrown, he had severe dental disease and his claws were so long they were puncturing his paws. Dogs Trust rushed Bobby to an emergency vet where they had to remove 1kg of fur, trim his claws, remove many of his teeth and put him on a course of antibiotics. Bobby is now on the mend after being cared for at Dogs Trust Leeds.
Terry was very underweight and had an injured tail when he was found abandoned in a cemetery in April. At first, he was taken to a local dog pound, but when lockdown began he was then handed over to Dogs Trust Manchester where he received urgent medical care to partially amputate his wounded tail, as well as essential pain relief, antibiotics and dental care.
Dogs Trust is also caring for a number of dogs whose owners have sadly passed away from coronavirus or contracted the virus and are no longer able to care for their four-legged friends.
Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Dogs Trust, said: “In these extraordinary times we know that circumstances can change in a heartbeat. The sad reality is that in times of financial hardship many people struggle to cope with looking after their pets, and the number of abandoned dogs has gone up. We saw this in 2008, and we’re extremely concerned that history could repeat itself in the coming months.
“We’ve already taken a number of dogs in from owners who have sadly passed away from or been hospitalised with COVID-19. We’re doing everything we can to minimise the impact of this crisis on dog welfare and would urge anyone needing to give up their dog to please turn to us first, and we’ll do everything we possibly can to help you and your dog.
“But we know the worst is yet to come and, like all charities, Dogs Trust is being hit hard by this crisis. We’re very grateful for the donations we have received and for this continued support. This will help us be there for as many dogs as possible and navigate the months and years ahead.”
Dogs Trust has launched an urgent appeal to help ensure it can continue to provide help for dogs in need now and in the future. The charity is asking for people to give what they can. Donate at www.dogstrust.org.uk/crisis