RSPCA predicts “difficult decisions” for lockdown pet owners

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Many animals have been rehomed during the pandemic

The RSPCA has raised concerns about the potential for abandoned pets as lockdown starts to ease.

With demand for pets increasing through the Covid-19 pandemic, some people who may have been feeling lonely during the national lockdown have turned to rehoming charities, like the RSPCA, for a companion.

However, the RSPCA are concerned that some people who have adopted a pet during the pandemic haven’t thought about the full commitments of how they are going to take care of the pet when normality resumes. Already, the charity has been dealing with regular calls of pet abandonment, neglect and cruelty.

Amy Ockelford, senior national press officer for the RSPCA, told JMU Journalism: “We know that a lot of families have been hit financially by the pandemic. There are going to be a lot of people who are going to have to make difficult decisions about giving up their pet, simply because they can’t afford to take care of it anymore, so it’s going to be left to charities, like the RSPCA, to pick up the pieces.

“As people start to return to work, we are concerned about the impact that is going to have on pets who have got used to having their owners around.”

Ms Ockelford revealed that the RSPCA, breeders and other rescue centers have seen a huge demand for pets during lockdown. She said the RSPCA have been rehoming pets “very, very quickly” throughout the course of the pandemic and are grateful to the mass amount of families applying to adopt animals, but she hopes that people have thought this commitment through.

She said: “The lockdown has definitely helped towards more people getting pets and it’s been wonderful that so many people have wanted to offer homes to rescue animals during lockdown.

“But hopefully, people have done their homework and their research and thought about that when they have taken the decision to add a pet to their family.”

As a result of the pandemic, the RSPCA have been forced to adapt quickly, moving almost all of their services online to adhere to the government restrictions and guidelines.

However, since March 23 last year, the charity has still been busy ensuring the safety of animals, answering almost one million calls and taking in 23,228 animals, with officers in the North West dealing with 16,319 incidents.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without support during the pandemic. Being an entirely publicly funded charity, finding new ways to raise funds has proved a challenge after their shops were closed and events cancelled. But you can never rule out the power of the people and their love for animals.

Ms Ockelford said: “We did launch an emergency appeal at the beginning of lockdown which has been supported hugely by the public. It’s been almost over a year now and we’ve had £1.8 million donated through that appeal so that’s been a huge support for us to continue the work that we do.”

Despite the difficulties the RSPCA have faced during the pandemic, Ms Ockelford believes that, with public support, the RSPCA can continue guaranteeing the safety of animals in the future.

She said: “Thankfully the public are hugely supportive. We’re still here, we’ve been here for nearly 200 years, doing what we do so hopefully we’ll be here for another 200 years yet.”

Listen to our interview with the RSPCA’s Amy Ockelford >>>

About Ethan Taylor, JMU Journalism