A study of more than 500 UK dog rehoming centres has revealed a number of alarming trends as the true impact of the pandemic on dog ownership becomes clear. Reduced funding, dwindling donations and fewer volunteers, combined with a sharp increase in dogs being abandoned and more dogs suffering from lockdown-related behavioural problems, means that one in every four rescue facilities now face having to turn dogs away, due to a lack of space.
The research, conducted on behalf of Direct Line Pet Insurance, shows that over a quarter (27 per cent) of rescue centres are running out of space, with rescues in Wales and the South West the worst affected.
Over a third (36 per cent) of rescues say the COVID-19 pandemic has had a “worse than expected” impact on them. And over half (55 per cent) say they are now in a worse position than they were during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
More than three quarters (77 per cent) of UK rescue centres say they’ve seen an increase in ‘pandemic pups’ being handed in for rehoming and the same proportion of rescues say dogs are becoming harder to rehome due to lockdown related behavioural issues. As well as this, over three quarters (77 per cent) say they’re bracing themselves for things to get worse this year (2022) as more people are expected to give up their pets.
Ryan O’Meara, a former professional dog trainer and co-founder of dogsblog.com, a UK dog adoption platform that helps rescue dogs find new homes, who conducted the research on behalf of Direct Line Pet Insurance comments: “Many of the rescues we’ve spoken to are saying there’s a pattern at play. People who got a pet during lockdown experienced a change in their circumstances, often due to being furloughed or losing their main source of income, and they had to move as a result.”
Madeline Pike, Veterinary Nurse at Direct Line Pet Insurance, says: “The pandemic has been exceptionally tough for all of us, and for a lot of our pets too. What we’re unfortunately seeing now is a ‘perfect storm’ of factors, including a reduction in donations and volunteers, an increase in people giving up their pets and a very noticeable spike in behavioural issues making dogs more likely to be given up and harder to rehomed.
“Lockdown was a unique situation which caused many people to feel it was the right time to get a dog. Unfortunately, as our routines return to normal, people are realising that they can’t provide the care and attention that their dog deserves. To compound the problem, dogs that were used to being around their humans all day every day are now struggling to adapt to being left at home.”
Mr. O’Meara continues by offering this advice to dog owners who got their pet during lockdown and are now thinking of having them rehomed:
“Dogs are very adaptable, but it takes time. Please don’t give up on your pet as it adjusts to its new reality. As we return to our old routines our dogs will need time and support to get used to being around their loved ones less often and to being alone for longer periods. In many cases, this change in routine may manifest itself in the form of separation anxiety or other behavioural problems. The key is to work slowly and surely with your pet, providing support and reassurance as they make progress. For many dogs, the change to their routine happened over night, but the solution won’t.”
Direct Line Pet Insurance partnered up with dogsblog.com, a UK based dog adoption platform that has helped more than 65,000 dogs find new homes, to survey 512 dog rehoming centres in the UK between 8th July 2020 and 16th July 2020 with a follow up survey between 18th of August 2021 and 23rd September 2021 to gauge each rehoming centre’s expectations of pandemic impact vs actual experiences.