The UK’s largest dog welfare charity Dogs Trust launched an urgent appeal as it prepares for a dramatic rise in strays.
The charity predicts more than 40,000 dogs could be given up or put to sleep in the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.
Dogs Trust chief executive Owen Sharp said: “In times of financial hardship, many people struggle to look after their pets and the number of abandoned dogs has gone up.
“We saw this in 2008, and we’re extremely concerned that history could repeat itself in the coming months.”
Following the 2008 financial crisis, the UK Stray Dog Survey calculated a 25.6% increase in stray dogs from 2009 to 2010.
In 2019, the Survey found that 46% of the 69,621 stray dogs in Local Authority kennels were not claimed or reunited with their owners.
Data-based projections for 2020 could see 87,444 instances of stray dogs, of which 40,224 could be permanently unwanted.
Dogs Trust cares for more than 14,300 dogs across its network of 20 re-homing centres in the UK and Ireland.
Mr Sharp said they are caring for dogs whose owners passed away from or have been hospitalised with COVID-19.
He added: “It’s likely animal re-homing centres will come under increased strain due to the coronavirus in the coming months, at a time when charities are facing greater financial hardship.”
Demand for puppies soared during lockdown with Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ increasing by 166% since lockdown was announced on March 23.
After the last recession, there was also a 25.4% increase in the number of dogs put to sleep in 2009 compared to 2008.
Euthanasia rates could rise by 25% again between 2020 and 2021 meaning 1,800 dogs in local authority shelters could be put to sleep unnecessarily.
Dogs Trust has launched an urgent appeal and revealed some of the dogs it has cared for during lockdown.
Bobby, a Lhasa Apso, was found abandoned in June with an overgrown and matted coat.
He suffered from severe dental disease and his long claws were puncturing his paws.
Bobby was rushed to an emergency vet where 1kg of fur and many of his teeth were removed. He was also put on a course of antibiotics.
Crossbreed, Terry, was very underweight and had an injured tail when he was found abandoned in a cemetery in April.
He moved from a local dog pound to Dogs Trust Manchester to receive urgent medical care when lockdown began.
His wounded tail was partially amputated and he required essential pain relief, antibiotics and dental care.
Mr Sharp said: “Dogs Trust is being hit hard by this crisis, with many of our usual fundraising activities and income streams interrupted.
“We’re doing everything we can to minimise the impact on dog welfare. We urge anyone needing to give up their dog to please turn to us first.”
Visit the charity appeal at www.dogstrust.org.uk/dogcrisis and contact them on 0300 303 2188.