'Direwolves' being abandoned by Game of Thrones fans this Christmas, warns rescue centre

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home notes a rise in abandoned huskies and malamutes

Tess de La Mare
Monday 25 December 2017 10:19 GMT
74 huskies and malamutes have been brought in so far this year
74 huskies and malamutes have been brought in so far this year

Breeds that have become the latest craze often end up on Battersea’s doorstep when their new owner realises the reality of what they have taken on.

In recent years, the home has seen a number of huskies and malamutes arrive after Game Of Thrones superfans realised the issues around owning a real-life “direwolf”.

In 2010, a total of 53 huskies and malamutes came through the doors, but by 2013 as the show became more popular the number had doubled to 116.

Both breeds need a huge amount of exercise and hate being left alone for long periods, making them unsuited for city living.

So far this year, 74 huskies and malamutes have been brought in, and Battersea attributes the drop to an education campaign to get people to think twice before buying the dogs.

Equally, the fashion for flat-faced breeds like French bulldogs and pugs, which often have extensive health problems, has seen a jump in these breeds arriving at Battersea.

Alice Christie, a spokeswoman for the home, says: “We tell people to imagine breathing through a drinking straw – that’s what it’s like for these breeds their airways are so narrow.

“Often the people who bring them in aren’t irresponsible owners, they just can’t afford the vet bills.”

Despite years of campaigning to persuade Britons to think twice about giving dogs or cats as gifts – summed up in the Dogs Trust’s slogan “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas” – staff know that they will still see an influx of dogs in a few months’ time when their novelty wears off.

Rehoming and welfare manager Becky Fisher says: “Around March we do have more dogs gifted in to us or come in as strays.

“Although we don’t know, we do think that might be dogs and cats that people have got as Christmas presents, and especially when they’re quite young and they would have been a puppy or a kitten around Christmas time.

“Maybe people have got them without really thinking about what they have taken on, or people have been given them as present when they actually didn’t necessarily want to take on the responsibility of a dog or a cat around the rest of its life.”

There has been a drop in the number of kittens being left at the home, however, and staff are hopeful that the fall is down to years of campaigning to get families to neuter their cats.

But cattery manager Rachel Saunders says she “can’t be certain” as it may be down to people getting rid of unwanted kittens via avenues like Gumtree.

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