Up to 40,000 dogs could be at risk of abandonment in the fallout of the coronavirus crisis, warns rescue charity Dogs Trust.
The charity has now launched an urgent appeal as it prepares to cope with the rise in stray dogs.
It fears the rise in cases will come as a result of the expected economic downturn, reporting that the 2008 financial crash resulted in a 25.6% increase in stray and abandoned dogs the year afterwards.
Experts say the current situation could be even worse, as there has been additional demand for dogs and puppies during lockdown and animals could be abandoned due to behavioral issues such as separation anxiety developed during or after lockdown.
Last year, the charity’s annual Stray Dog Survey found that 46% of dogs in local authority kennels were left with nowhere to turn and needed the support of welfare organisations like Dogs Trust.
However, if enough safe rescue shelter space cannot be found for dogs taken in by local authorities, euthanasia rates could also increase by up to 25% in the next year as was seen in 2009 following the recession – meaning more than 1,800 dogs in local authority shelters could be put to sleep unnecessarily.
Dogs Trust is also caring for a number of dogs whose owners have passed away from coronavirus or contracted the virus and are no longer able to care for their pets.
Owen Sharp, chief executive of Dogs Trust, said: “In these extraordinary times we know that circumstances can change in a heartbeat. The sad reality is that in times of financial hardship many people struggle to cope with looking 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.
“We’re doing everything we can to minimise the impact of this crisis on dog welfare, and would urge anyone needing to give up their dog to please turn to us first, and we’ll do everything we possibly can to help you and your dog.
“But we know the worst is yet to come and, like all charities, Dogs Trust is being hit hard by this crisis. We’re very grateful for the donations we have received and for this continued support. This will help us be there for as many dogs as possible and navigate the months and years ahead.”