Are pandemic pups causing a crisis at rescue centres?

Are pandemic puppies causing a crisis at rescue centres?

The so-called ‘puppy boom’ which swept the nation during lockdown last March is in danger of causing a crisis at animal shelters across the country.

Since the initial lockdown in March 2020, demand for kittens and puppies soared as people looked for four-legged companions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, new research has found that more and more pet owners are having second thoughts, meaning many re-homing centres such as Cheltenham Animal Shelter are facing a huge rise in the number of pets in their care.

Ahead of International Day of Charity on September 5th, petGuard are shining a light on the great work done by Cheltenham Animal Shelter throughout the pandemic.

How many people bought lockdown puppies last year?

According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, around 3.2 million households welcomed a new pet since the start of the pandemic.

This meant that the number of UK households who own a pet rose by 23% last year. Pets4Homes, one of the largest classified ad sites in the country, saw 7 million wannabe pet owners searching for a four-legged friend at the peak of the puppy boom in May 2020.

A wishful dog at an animal rescue shelter

The number of pet owners in the UK rose by 23% in 2020.

How many lockdown puppies have been given up?

Unfortunately, it appears that these forever homes were nothing more than short stays for many lockdown puppies. Dogs Trust reported a 50% rise in reports of pet owners calling to hand over their dogs between May and July last year. The long-lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may even see as many as 25,000 dogs abandoned over the next five years according to the Battersea Covid Research Project.

Cheltenham Animal Shelter has recently seen an increase in the number of animals coming into its care.

Nicky Spanswick, Operations Manager said: “When comparing a typical day in January 2021 to today, we can see a 34% increase on the total number of animals being cared for at the Shelter and 60% more dogs.

Spanswick added, “Just under 19% of all our current dogs are younger than 2 years old. Their lives may have been affected by restrictions and lockdowns.”

Playful dog and staff at Cheltenham Animal Rescue Centre

The loveable Roxy and staff at Cheltenham Animal Shelter / Image: Cheltenham Animal Shelter

Why are people giving up their pets?

There’s no single reason why so many people are giving up their pets. It may be that:

  • They’ve discovered they are actually allergic to their pets.
  • They have less time to spend with their pet after returning to work.
  • They’ve had second thoughts over getting a pet.

Battersea Dogs Home found that almost a third of people who got a pet in lockdown were first-time pet owners. It may be that for many people who bought a pandemic puppy, they just weren’t prepared for the commitment of owning a pet. Research from the Kennel Club found that a quarter of pet owners admitted to doing little research when buying a puppy in lockdown.