‘Adopt Don’t Shop’ is the message from RSPCA Cymru this month of ‘Adoptober’ – as the animal welfare charity reveals the number of people looking for puppies online in the UK during lockdown soared by 650%.
During ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, UK-based Google searches for ‘Puppies near me’ increased more than six times (650%) with 15,000 searches in July 2020 compared to 2,000 in January 2020. The figure was also five times higher than the same month last year (July 2019).
Wales has long had a negative reputation for some poor puppy breeding practices – and has previously been labelled the ‘puppy farming capital’ of the UK. However, the Welsh Government has today (5 October) confirmed plans to ban the third party sale of puppies before the end of the Welsh Parliamentary term, while the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Group recently made a series of recommendations to further improve dog breeding laws.
Meanwhile, there is also concern that a rise in interest for puppies may surge importation numbers which, if sourced from an irresponsible breeder, is a potentially exploitative and damaging trade which can cause life-long suffering to dogs. UK Government figures show the number of licences – or Intra Trade Animal Health Certificates – issued for the commercial import of dogs more than doubled from 5,964 (June – August 2019) to 12,733 for the same three-month period this year.
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “We have seen a rise in people searching for dogs to adopt during lockdown, which is fantastic, but at the same time, there appears to be a rise in people looking to buy puppies.
“We know that there are not enough puppies bred in the UK to meet the demands of those who want to buy them and, worryingly, there appears to be a surge in puppies coming in from outside the UK.
“The problem with this is that, although breeders from countries like Romania may be licensed, we have no way of checking the conditions those animals are being kept in and we fear that sales like these could be fuelling cruel puppy farms as well as exposing puppies to long and stressful journeys.
“We are all used to being able to buy whatever we want, when we want it – but we’re urging people to thoroughly do their research before committing to getting any dog and to make sure they don’t get caught out by people acting illegally or irresponsibly. We have lots of dogs waiting for their forever homes so please do consider getting a rescue dog.
“Although it is really tempting to buy a puppy, those from abroad may have been bred in poor conditions, leaving them with potentially serious medical and behavioural problems whereas adopting from somewhere like the RSPCA where staff have really got to know the dog, means you get the advice and support you need.
“If families would still prefer to buy a puppy, we’re encouraging them to use The Puppy Contract. This is a free online tool that will help find responsible breeders and a happy, healthy dog.”
Positively, however, interest in adopting animals from the RSPCA has also soared in recent months. The charity’s online Find A Pet service saw a surge in visits during lockdown, with over 3.7 million visitors searching for dogs on the RSPCA website, compared to just over 1.6 million for the same time period last year – a rise of 129%*.
However, prospective adopters are also being urged to do their research, and ensure they would be able to continue to meet the needs of their new family member once lockdown restrictions are over and a greater semblance of normality returns to life in Wales.
RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “It’s wonderful to see that so many people want to welcome dogs into their families and we’ve loved waving so many of our own dogs off into their forever homes.
“However, we are concerned that some families may not be considering the long-term commitment of taking on a dog and how they’ll care for their new pet post-lockdown.
“We’re worried that as people return to their normal lives beyond lockdown and people are hit by recession we could see more dogs coming into our care or being abandoned. The message here is simple: do lots of research to help find the right pet for your family and don’t impulse buy.
“Sadly, we’re also worried that more families will hand their dogs into rescue due to behaviour problems that have emerged due to changes in routines and set-ups caused by lockdown. During the past few months we’ve seen more visits to our website from people seeking advice on their dog’s behaviour with a 105% increase in visits to our ‘Understanding dogs’ behaviour’ pages, compared to last year, and a 27% increase in visits to our ‘Find a behaviourist’ pages.
“Dogs can be sensitive to changes to their routine and we’d urge anyone who is concerned about their pets’ behaviour to speak to their vet or to a clinical animal behaviourist for help.”
Throughout the month of October, the RSPCA is shining a light on animals in its care which need a new home and promoting the benefits of adopting a rescue animal through its Adoptober campaign.
RSPCA Cymru and its network of independent branches rehomed 454 dogs across Wales in 2019 – and across England and Wales, the charity rehomed 7,480 dogs – or one every 90 minutes. However, a number of canine companions continue to search for a second chance of forever home happiness, as the charity highlights the benefits of adopting a rescue animal throughout the month of October.
Dogs looking for another chance of happiness include German shepherd dog Dixie – who came into the RSPCA’s care from a household in Pontypridd. She had serious bladder issues, and her owners were unable to meet her needs.
She arrived into the care of the RSPCA with weight issues, and badly-matted fur – all of which have come under control following a period of time in the charity’s care. Centre staff have been amazed by her “stunning” temperament, and feel she would be able to live easily with certain other dogs.
Dixie’s bladder problems mean she will require life-long medication to control the condition – but centre staff can discuss these requirements with any prospective new owners.
Meanwhile, Shadow has been in the care of Newport Animal Centre since 24 March – the day after the Welsh Government confirmed the country was being put into lockdown. He came into the RSPCA’s care from the Cwmbran area; and was very underweight.
Shadow is on a behaviour plan with the RSPCA – as, after a difficult time, can jump up and mouth people. He is therefore looking for a new owner who will work with him to patiently address these challenges and adapt to new surroundings.
Samantha Richmond, from the RSPCA Newport Animal centre, added: “Newport Animal Centre found new homes for 148 dogs last year – and our centres and branches across Wales matched up 454 canine companions with loving new homes.
“Yet there’s always more dogs looking for a second chance of forever home happiness – so we’d urge anyone looking to add a dog to their family to look to rescue centres, just like us here in Newport.
“Local lockdown restrictions mean we can only rehome locally at the moment – but we’re eager to chat to prospective dog owners who may be able to help the animals in our care.
“Dixie is an amazing German shepherd dog with a stunning temperament. We have done a lot of work with her since she came into our care – and she’ll need life-long medication for a bladder problem. However, she will make a truly amazing companion, who we think could live happily with certain other dogs.
“Shadow is another long-stay dog with us – who came into our care just after lockdown was announced. He’ll need a new owner who will help support his behaviour plan; but he’s an incredible dog who deserves another chance of happiness after such a difficult time.
“For anyone considering a rescue dog, please visit the RSPCA’s Find a Pet service and start the search for your paw-fect match.”
Under current Covid rehoming protocols anyone interested in fostering or adopting an animal from the RSPCA should visit the charity’s website to see which animals are available near you and should check with their local centre for the current process applicable in that area.
New coronavirus local lockdown restrictions have impacted rehoming procedures at RSPCA centres in Newport, and Bryn-Y-Maen in Upper Colwyn Bay. Due to restrictions on people entering and leaving the local authority area, animal adopter appointments can only be offered to those living locally, until further notice. This is to avoid encouraging travel in and out of lockdown areas.