RSPCA rescuers in Wales will continue to respond to emergencies and cruelty calls during the upcoming ‘firebreak’ lockdown – which starts today (Friday 23 October) at 6pm.
The animal welfare charity has reassured animal lovers they will still be dealing with emergency calls made to their helpline as usual in Wales despite the new restrictions. The RSPCA frontline rescuers – along with staff who work in animal centres/clinics – are classed as critical (key) workers.
However the new ‘firebreak’ lockdown restrictions will impact rehoming procedures at RSPCA animal centres in Newport, and Bryn-Y-Maen in Upper Colwyn Bay. These two centres will close to the public for the duration of the firebreak lockdown, but will continue to provide care for the animals based at the sites and take in animals from frontline rescuers. Following discussions with the Welsh Government, limited rehoming can still be undertaken through a virtual process; with pets delivered to new owners in a Covid-compliant manner by RSPCA staff.
Charity shops – which are run by RSPCA branches across Wales – will also be closed along with other non-essential retail. The new rules also state that vets can remain open but pet owners should only seek treatment for animals if it is urgent and cannot be deferred until after 9 November, when the ‘firebreak’ is scheduled to end. This will include RSPCA Merthyr Tydfil Veterinary Clinic – who will provide emergency-only treatment to clients.
People have been told they can leave home as often as they like to exercise during the ‘firebreak’ – but this must start and finish at home. For dog walkers, there will be no limits on the distance people can walk during this exercise.
Livestock and horse owners are allowed to tend to their animals but are being asked to limit their movement outside the home or farm. The RSPCA encourages horse owners to think about buddying up with other owners – further advice can be found on the Welsh Government website.
Chief executive, Chris Sherwood, said: “As we approach this ‘firebreak’ lockdown in Wales we want to reassure everyone that our dedicated team of frontline staff will continue to provide care for the most vulnerable animals in Wales and respond to calls to our cruelty line.
“Animal cruelty does not stop for Covid-19, and neither will we. However, we all have an important part to play in stopping the spread of this virus – so our animal centres at Bryn-Y-Maen and Newport will need to close during this firebreak lockdown.
“We appreciate this is another unsettling time for animal owners and urge everyone to seek the advice and guidance ahead of these upcoming two weeks.
“I’d also urge anyone struggling with their pet to ask for help. Animals have been there to help us through the crisis – please don’t abandon them now.”
Following the new restrictions RSPCA Cymru is urging local authorities to explore relaxing locally-imposed restrictions on where dogs can be walked. Many Councils have previously introduced Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) to stop dogs being walked in certain areas – including on local sports pitches. However, if these measures were temporarily relaxed they would help stop unnecessary travel and to keep dog walkers exercising within their immediate communities.
RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines added: “During the previous lockdown, we received lots of queries from concerned dog walkers.
“Many local authorities have introduced Public Spaces Protection Orders that stop dogs being walked in certain areas – including some sports pitches and fields. This has created issues around the availability of dog walking spots near to some people’s homes – meaning many must travel for suitable dog walking spots.
“As Wales enters another national lockdown, we again urge local authorities – if appropriate and safe to do so – to consider relaxing PSPOs to ensure people have adequate local space to walk their dogs. This will help keep people close to home and avoid unnecessary journeys being made in Wales during the firebreak.”