Battersea Research Reveals ‘Imminent’ Animal Welfare Crisis For Lockdown Pets

07 DECEMBER 2020

7 DECEMBER 2020

BATTERSEA RESEARCH REVEALS ‘IMMINENT’ ANIMAL WELFARE CRISIS FOR LOCKDOWN PETS

As the second national lockdown ends, leading animal welfare charity Battersea has released a new report that reveals the potentially catastrophic impact Covid-19 and the first lockdown has had on dogs and cats.

From popular local rescues facing the threat of closure through lack of income to impulse-bought pandemic pets suffering from irresponsible breeding, the consequences for animals are far-reaching – and Battersea is calling on the Government to do more to help struggling animal rescues across the UK.

Battersea’s report shows:

  • The pandemic is threatening the very existence of dozens of smaller rescues across the UK and Ireland, with more than half seeing their income drop by 50% or more
  • Unwanted and abandoned dogs and cats across the UK have continued to desperately need help throughout lockdown and, with a major recession looming, this is likely to get worse as owners cannot afford to care for them.
  • The UK is likely to see up to 27% more stray dogs across the next five years
  • Lockdown led thousands of people to panic buy pets for company, with more than 40% of people who bought puppies during lockdown admitting they had not previously planned to get a dog. Many of these may have inadvertently been acquired from less reputable sources.
  • Owners have faced challenges accessing veterinary treatment for their pet, with veterinary consultations down 25-40% even as late as September. This may be because of restrictions placed on veterinary practices or reflect owners’ anxiety about visiting vets under lockdown.

Battersea’s Chief Executive Claire Horton, who is also Chair of the Association of Dogs Cats Homes (ADCH), said “We know many of our fellow rescues are struggling to stay afloat for the dogs and cats that so desperately need their help – and our research shows the worst welfare consequences for many of these pandemic pets may be yet to come.

“At Battersea, we continue to do all we can to support not only the dogs and cats coming into our own centres but those needing help across the UK and beyond. Between us, a number of partners and ADCH, we’ve awarded more than £700,000 to rescues in need – but so much more needs to be done.”

Rescues in need include:

  • Before the pandemic even reached the UK, Hope Rescue in South Wales was already struggling after Storm Dennis floods damaged their shop. Once lockdown was announced, the charity lost major sources of income, such as fees from their boarding kennels, overnight and had very little reserves to cover losses.
  • Yorkshire Cat Rescue had to close their four shops for most of this year, which meant not only a loss of reliable income, but also the loss of their local community hubs where people would often pop in to donate. Although the charity’s supporters have been a great help over the last several months, the charity admits ‘there were times we didn’t think we’d make it.’
  • As a small rescue, Pawprints Dog Rescue did not own their own property and had been renting a block within boarding kennels when lockdown struck. During the early stages of lockdown, their landlord decided to sell the kennels and the charity is being forced to relocate in the midst of the pandemic. Despite this setback the charity has been helping more dogs than ever, including offering respite care for owners such as a doctor working on the frontline and a man living in his car after being made homeless.

Claire Horton continued: “The Government, which has so far provided no direct grant support to our sector, needs to recognise the potential catastrophe the UK faces if these rescues, which are here for dogs and cats with nowhere else to go, are forced to close. This, combined with the looming economic crisis and the fact so many puppies and kittens were bought on impulse during lockdown by people who may later struggle to care for them, could create a perfect storm.

“Unlike so many other sectors, animal charities have struggled to access Government support so far. Animals have no voice, so we must speak for them.”

Battersea’s staff have been working every day across its three centres and taking in emergency cases even during the height of lockdown.

Claire added: “We are always here for struggling owners and will continue to keep our doors open for people who can no longer care for their animals and make the responsible choice to bring them to rescue rather than selling them online or, worse, abandoning them.”

Some of the cases brought to Battersea over the past nine months illustrate some of the economic and societal problems detailed in the report:

  • Tiny Spitz puppy Rocco was brought to Battersea in August after his owners, who had bought him from a breeder, realised he had serious congenital eye problems they could not afford to treat. Rocco was sent to stay with one of Battersea’s foster carers where he could be closely monitored and remain under the charity’s expert veterinary care. After finally getting the all clear from Battersea’s vets, the fluffy livewire was able to go to a new home.
  • Casper, a Maine Coon cat, was found abandoned in Battersea Park in a carrier with a heart-breaking note attached from his owner explaining they had lost their job due to the pandemic and could not afford to pay for his medical problems. Casper’s fur was badly matted and he required weeks of treatment before staff found him a home.
  • A young Bichon Frise cross named Poppy was brought to Battersea’s Old Windsor centre in October when her owners could no longer afford veterinary costs for their pet. When the charity’s clinic team gave Poppy a routine check at intake, they discovered the medical conditions with her ears and skin were more serious than previously thought. She is still in Battersea’s care receiving treatment and is not yet ready for a new home.
  • Maltese sisters Sophie and Maya were bought from a breeder via a Gumtree ad for almost £4,000. When their owner realised they weren’t the right pets for her, she initially tried to return them to the breeder but ultimately decided they were better off coming to Battersea where they would be rehomed responsibly. The five-month-old pair had been imported from Romania. Battersea has since found them both a new home.

Claire said: “Animals like Rocco, Casper and Poppy need help all over the UK. If smaller rescues are forced to fold, who will be there to pick up the pieces?

“Our research clearly shows we are facing an imminent animal welfare crisis.”

To read Battersea’s report, The Impact of Covid-19 on Animal Welfare, click here.

Ends

For more information and images please email press@battersea.org.uk

To read the full report please visit www.battersea.org.uk/battersea-covid-research-report

Notes to editors

  • Since Battersea was founded 160 years ago, we’ve been committed to helping every dog and cat that needs us - championing their rights, loving their imperfections and expertly caring for them. Because rescue is our favourite breed.
  • Battersea directly helps over 5,000 dogs and cats across its three centres and uses its expertise, influence, and voice to help thousands more animals all over the country and across the world.
  • There is no time limit on how long an animal can stay at Battersea, but the average stay for a dog is 34 days and 25 days for a cat.
  • In addition to the site in South West London, Battersea also has two other centres based at Old Windsor, Berkshire and Brands Hatch, Kent.
  • To donate to Battersea, visit https://donate.battersea.org.uk.
  • Follow Battersea on Twitter @battersea_ or facebook.com/Battersea