Posted 2 months ago ago
The RSPCA has warned of the "biggest dog welfare crisis of a generation" with "millions of dogs suffering everyday" ahead of so-called freedom day.
Many people have been eagerly awaiting the biggest lockdown easing to date to ditch face masks, social distancing and capacity limits on venues - but the animal welfare charity is concerned that July 19 will also see new pet owners abandon their dogs.
More than 3.2 million households welcomed a four-legged family member during the pandemic, but the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) has reported that 11 per cent of new owners have already given up their dog.
Now the RSPCA is expecting what could be a huge crisis, having already had an influx of animals surrendered to rescue post-lockdown.
One such case is Snowy, who was returned to RSPCA care recently after struggling to cope with separation related behaviour in her adoptive home.
The nine-year-old German shepherd cross husky loves human company so much that she struggles when she’s left alone.
The charity said: “She becomes incredibly stressed, restless and barks.
"The charity’s behaviour team has been working with her but are now looking for a very special home with owners who home a lot and have friends who can take care of her when out.”
It’s suggested that eight in 10 dogs struggle to cope when left alone, and the RSPCA is concerned there will be a surge in people looking to rehome their lockdown dogs as restrictions ease and people head back to work.
Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA pet welfare expert, said: “Sadly, the PFMA found that 11 per cent of new owners have already given up a pet and we fear that this is just the beginning of what could become the biggest dog welfare crisis of a generation.
"Behavioural problems are one of the key reasons why dogs are relinquished to rescue centres and we’re already starting to see ‘pandemic puppies’ coming into our care.
“Some dogs who find being left home alone difficult may exhibit behaviours that are usually associated with stress and anxiety, like barking, toileting in the house, or being destructive. But others may not give any clear signals that they’re struggling and can often suffer in silence.”
The charity is looking to educate owners and encourage them to be ‘Dog Kind’, planning and slowly introducing their new routine.
She added: “Many dogs can find changes in our routine very unsettling so it’s really important to introduce any changes gradually.
"Please be #DogKind, understand your pet’s needs, prepare now and help them to be happy and healthy in the long-term. If not, we fear the biggest dog welfare crisis of a generation, and millions of dogs suffering everyday when their owners go out to work.
“When we pop out to the shops or head out to work our dogs can become very anxious or worried. Some dogs can struggle with nothing to do or be frightened by loud noises outside.
"But many dogs form close bonds with us and don’t like to be alone. If they haven’t learnt that being by themselves is a positive experience then it can be very difficult.
“It’s really important that we help them learn to cope with being left at home and gradually teach them to be alone in a positive way. We’re urging owners to think about this before they head back to the office and to come up with a plan to help their dogs cope with this change in routine.”
In order to help your dog settle, the RSPCA recommends encouraging your dog to stay in their bed and gradually moving away, offering lots of praise and reward if they remain relaxed.
Owners can gradually increase the time and distance spent apart, repeating if their dog continues to struggle being apart.
Here is the plan the animal welfare charity recommend putting in place ahead of Freedom Day:
- Speak to your employer; is there a way of splitting your time between home and the office to reduce the amount of time your dog is home alone?
- Dog-friendly office; could you take your dog into work with you? Is it safe and would your dog enjoy the experience?
- Friends and family; do you have a friend, relative or neighbour who could pop in to spend time with your pooch while you’re out?
- Employ a professional; think about hiring a professional dog walker to take your pet out.
- Doggy day care; enrol your pooch into doggy day care for a fun day out while you’re at work.
- Seek help; film your dog when left alone and if you spot signs that your dog is struggling then it’s important to seek help from a clinical animal behaviourist and make a training plan to introduce being left gradually and positively.
For more advice visit www.rspca.org.uk/dogsleftalone .