Dog owners handing in unwanted lockdown pets as strays, shelters say

Dogs ‘have become a throwaway item,’ warns charity

Kate Ng
Saturday 23 October 2021 18:24

Animal rescue charities and shelters have seen an increase in people disguising dogs that they acquired during lockdown as strays after failing to sell them online.

Some people who have handed the dogs into rescue centres bought them online but were not told the truth about their origins or medical issues.

Pet owners who no longer want their dogs are using websites such as Gumtree or Pets4Homes in an attempt to recoup the cost of purchasing the dogs in the first place.

Ira Moss, founder of the charity All Dogs Matter, told The Independent: “We have noticed in the last couple of weeks an increase in dogs coming in, and we believe that 90 per cent of the time people have been pressured to sell the dogs first rather than bring them into the charities.

“Dog wardens have been getting calls from vets who say a member of the public has said they found a stray, but often it’s by people who can’t be bothered to wait for rescue charities to help or are embarrassed about handing the dog in.

“When a dog warden takes a dog, they will scan a microchip and the person registered on the chip can claim the dog back. But sometimes you call them and they say they sold the dog some time back, or the number doesn’t work.”

Hope Rescue, an animal charity based in Wales, told the BBC that the number of dogs being handed into its rescue centre was the highest in its 15-year history.

Sara Rosser, head of welfare at Hope Rescue Centre, said the charity has seen “fake” stray dogs “jumping the queue ahead of dogs that really are abandoned”.

During the coronavirus lockdown, figures showed that more than 3.2 million pets were bought by UK households. But charities have previously warned that the number of abandoned dogs would rise as people went back to work and no longer have as much time for them.

Ms Moss said other reasons for unwanted dogs include behavioural problems due to a lack of training, and being unable to keep up with the financial cost of ownership.

“People who are trying to sell the dogs they got during lockdown are doing so partly because the animals are so expensive. They can cost as much as a car at times,” she said.

“A lot of people didn’t think about it properly when they first got their lockdown puppies, and now, some of these dogs are so dangerous they can’t even sell them because no one would be able to get near them. Some have had no socialisation at all.

“People also don’t want to, or can’t, pay for their vet care. Dogs have become a throwaway item and they tend to lose their value the older they get and the more they are moved around.”

Ms Moss also warned that some dogs have been sold online multiple times before arriving at their door.

“Some of the dogs have probably been in two or three homes by the time they come to us,” she said. “They are so confused and have separation anxiety. It’s so sad.

“We have only had a handful of people, out of all the puppies sold during lockdown, come straight to us and genuinely said, I’ve made a mistake and I can’t take care of this dog anymore, but I don’t want to sell it online because I don’t know where it will end up.”

Dogs sold online may be bought by illegal breeders, known as backstreet breeders, or as bait dogs for illegal dog fighting.

Ms Moss advises people struggling with their dogs not to put them online in an attempt to get money back.

“They are not just a car you’re selling online,” she said.

Instead, speak to charities who will help with rehoming, she said, adding: “A lot of people think they’re just going to go into a kennel, but they are better off going to a kennel with professionals for a week or so than being passed around homes. You just don’t know where they will end up if you sell them online.”

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