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Pandemic pups crisis pushes UK dog rescues to breaking point

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Between 2020 and 2022, a surge in “pandemic pups” has stretched UK dog rescue organizations to their limits. Around three million dogs found new homes during lockdowns, often without proper preparation, sourced from unlicensed online breeders. As life returned to normal, many owners grappled with behavioural issues in these dogs due to insufficient socialization, leading to surrenders to rescue charities. Dog trainer Debbie Topping, a Doodle Rescue volunteer, emphasized that “new dog owners were unprepared for their new arrival and didn’t appreciate that this new creature was a sentient being and not a ‘teddy'” (source: wunderdogmagazine.com).

This relentless wave of relinquished dogs has overwhelmed rescue centers, subjecting them to tremendous financial and emotional pressure. Burnout and compassion fatigue have become increasingly common among charity staff and veterinarians, who are sometimes forced to make the heart-wrenching decision to euthanize healthy pets due to owners’ inability to afford their care.

Two rescue centres, Munlochy Animal Aid in Inverness and Pendle Dogs in Lancashire, vividly illustrate the challenges confronting organizations across the country.

Munlochy Animal Aid grapples with a staggering influx of dogs seeking new homes, straining under a weekly vet bill averaging over £1,000 and a severe space shortage to accommodate the growing numbers.

Meanwhile, Pendle Dogs, a local dog rescue charity based in Colne, Lancashire, reluctantly closed its doors temporarily due to the deluge of dogs in need. Paula Knowles, one of Pendle Dogs’ founders, revealed that the charity had assisted 130 dogs by April, compared to the previous year’s total of 100. The charity faced a dire shortage of available foster homes, kennels, and even space in their founders’ own homes.

In response to this crisis, the All-Party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group (APDAWG) recently convened. Chaired by veterinarian Marc Abraham and attended by Labour MP Rosie Duffield, the meeting brought together over 160 participants from various dog welfare sectors. The meeting highlighted the importance of preventing dogs from entering rescue centres whenever possible. Initiatives such as supporting food banks that allow pets to stay with their owners during crises offer a promising avenue to ease the burden on rescue organizations. Rob Mitchell, CEO of the National Animal Welfare Trust, called for stronger networks among the UK’s numerous registered animal charities, emphasizing joint purchasing of supplies and formalized staff training.

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