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Shelters are bracing for an influx of abandoned ‘pandemic puppies’

It’s thought that buyer’s remorse is setting in for many pandemic pet owners (Picture: Getty Images)

Remember those heady days of early lockdown, when we were all baking bread and bumping elbows?

Those trends faded fast, but others have had more long-term ramifactions.

One of these is the rise of the ‘pandemic puppy’.

You probably saw it happening, even if you didn’t partake. Locked down and working from home, people jumped at what seemed like the perfect opportunity to adopt a dog, then gleefully showed off their new family member.

But while some had simply used the Covid-19 pandemic as a trigger for a long-pondered decision, others had acted on impulse, and soon realised they were woefully unprepared for the reality of caring for an animal.

Life sped back up, pandemic pups stopped receiving the same level of fuss, and regret started to set in.

Now, shelters and charities fear an influx of abandoned pandemic pets.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines tells Metro.co.uk: ‘There was a huge surge in demand for dogs during lockdown as families made the most of spending more time at home.

‘What concerns us is what’s happening to these “lockdown puppies” now and what will happen to them over the coming months.

Shelters fear a crisis is looming (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘We’re worried that while many families will have considered the long-term commitment of taking on a dog, some may not have been thinking post-lockdown about how they’ll care for their new pet when they return to work or how they’ll pay for them if they should be hit by the recession.

‘We expect that we’ll see a major dog welfare crisis this year as huge numbers of dogs are relinquished to rescue centres, sold on online or even abandoned; with struggling charities forced to pick up the pieces.’

While the RSPCA team note that they haven’t seen a massive increase in dogs coming into their care yet, there are concerns that numbers could jump up in the months ahead.

They explain that as we return to offices, dogs adopted in lockdown might start showing problem behaviour that new owners aren’t equipped to deal with.

‘Many dogs who have got used to having their owners at home may struggle to adapt once furloughing ends and people begin to migrate back to the office,’ says Samantha.

‘We know that one of the major reasons dogs are relinquished is due to behaviour problems and research suggests that separation related anxiety may affect 85% of dogs. This could result in more dogs coming into rescue centres as owners return to work and they struggle to cope.

‘In addition to this, many of the puppies bought during lockdown will be approaching adolescence, a period of time where big behavioural changes can occur.

Charities are urging people to properly consider whether they are ‘dog ready’ (Picture: Getty Images/EyeEm Premium)

‘This period does typically pass but may bring additional challenges for owners if unprepared for how best to manage their dog during this time.’

At Dogs Trust, it’s a similar story, with staff braced for a wave of young dogs ditched when owners realise their pet doesn’t fit in their non-lockdown life.

‘While we are starting to see an increase in dogs coming into our care, we are yet to see the full impact of dogs purchased or acquired during the pandemic being handed in to us,’ says a Dogs Trust spokesperson.

‘However, we believe the worst is yet to come and that we will likely see more people having to give up their dog if families struggle to cope with the fallout of the coronavirus crisis or life changes for them in a way they didn’t predict.’

The key to tackling this looming crisis is obvious: we need to think very carefully before rushing into adopting or buying a dog.

‘Dogs are a huge responsibility and taking one on should always be a decision that is made carefully, with great consideration given to whether you can care for that pet for the rest of their life,’ says Samantha. ‘Any prospective pet owners should do lots of research and ensure they can commit to that animal.

‘Sadly, we know that as animals are so readily and easily available to buy online, it can be very easy for people to buy a new pet on a whim and that often means that, within a few months, they quickly realise that they cannot cope with them and seek to give them up or sell them on.

‘Our advice to anyone thinking of getting a dog is to do lots of research and take time to really consider whether you can commit to a dog and the responsibility and costs associated with owning one.

If you are experiencing puppy panic, though, shelters want you to know that they’re here to help (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘If you can, then please consider adopting a rescue dog instead of buying a puppy.’

Dogs Trust has a quiz to help you check if you’re ‘dog ready’, which can be a handy reality check.

But for some, it’s too late to give the decision proper consideration. The dog has been adopted, you’ve realised you aren’t prepared… now what?

The shelters are keen to advise anyone who is experiencing puppy regret to please, please, come to them if they’re struggling. It’s important that those who have realised they’re unable to care for an animal don’t feel so shamed that they’re unable to ask for help.

Robert Young, head of centre operations at Battersea, says: ‘Our research shows more than 40% of people who bought a puppy during the first national lockdown hadn’t previously considered getting a pet – and buyers’ remorse may be settling in for these thousands of impulse shoppers.

‘Many may now be struggling to cope and we’ve seen a small number of young dogs under six months old come through Battersea’s gates due to medical problems or because their owners’ circumstances have changed.

‘We would remind owners who are struggling with their pets that bringing them to a rescue like Battersea is the most responsible decision if they can no longer care for them.

‘We are here for every dog and cat who needs our help and to provide owners with advice and support.’

Accepting that you are not able to provide the right home for a dog is difficult, but the kindest thing to do in this situation is give a pet over to the experts so they can find them the best care.

What we don’t want is to see pandemic puppies being neglected, mistreated, or abandoned in unsafe conditions.

A Dogs Trust spokesperson adds: ‘If people are struggling to look after their dog for whatever reason, we would urge them to get in touch with Dogs Trust and we will do everything we can to help.’

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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