RSPCA fears 'lockdown puppies' could add to dog welfare crisis as rescuers deal with 386 incidents in Bedfordshire

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This Adoptober, the RSPCA is championing rescue dogs as it reveals searches for puppies increased sixfold during lockdown

The RSPCA fears that the coming recession and the impact of ‘lockdown puppies’ will hit already-struggling rescue centres hard in coming months as the charity reveals it has dealt with 386 incidents this year about dogs in Bedfordshire alone.

The charity reveals 189,800 reports related to dogs were made to its emergency hotline in 2019 and 45,181 dog incidents have been dealt with this year (up to September 29), with officers in Bedfordshire dealing with 386 dog incidents.

The RSPCA fears next year could be worse.

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One dog looking for a home is Bruno, a six-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier cross (C) RSPCAOne dog looking for a home is Bruno, a six-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier cross (C) RSPCA
One dog looking for a home is Bruno, a six-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier cross (C) RSPCA

During lockdown, Google searches for ‘Puppies near me’ increased sixfold (650 per cent) with 15,000 searches compared to 2,000 in January 2020. And Government figures show the numbers of licences issued for the commercial import of dogs more than doubled from 5,964 (June - August 2019) to 12,733 for the same three-month period this year.

The figures suggest that this rise in demand is fuelling a worrying trend in breeding and importing of puppies, a potentially exploitative and damaging trade which can cause suffering to dogs.

This raises concerns among RSPCA experts that an impending dog welfare crisis could be on the horizon in 2021 as families return to normal life and may no longer be able to take care of the puppy they bought during lockdown.

Coupled with a fear that the end of furlough and the deepening recession will hit families hard and some may no longer be able to afford their pets, this could put pressure on the already-stretched resources of rescue centres.

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The charity is urging families to do lots of research and ensure they can commit long-term to a dog before bringing one home, but this Adoptober, it is also championing the benefits of rescuing instead of buying a puppy.

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “We have seen a rise in people searching for dogs to adopt during lockdown, which is fantastic, but at the same time, there appears to be a rise in people looking to buy puppies.

“We know that there are not enough puppies bred in the UK to meet the demands of those who want to buy them and, worryingly, there appears to be a surge in puppies coming in from outside the UK.

"The problem with this is that, although breeders from countries like Romania are licensed, we have no way of checking the conditions those animals are being kept in and we fear that sales like these could be fuelling cruel puppy farms as well as exposing puppies to long and stressful journeys.

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“We are all used to being able to buy whatever we want when we want it but we’re urging people to thoroughly do their research before committing to getting any dog and to make sure they don’t get caught out by people acting illegally or irresponsibly.

"We have lots of dogs waiting for their forever homes so please do consider getting a rescue dog.

"Although it is really tempting to buy a puppy, those from abroad may have been bred in poor conditions, leaving them with potentially serious medical and behavioural problems whereas adopting from somewhere like the RSPCA where staff have really got to know the dog, means you get the advice and support you need.

“If families would still prefer to buy a dog, we’re encouraging them to use The Puppy Contract. This is a free online tool that will help find responsible breeders and a happy, healthy dog.”

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Throughout the month of October, the RSPCA is shining a light on animals in its care which need a new home and promoting the benefits of adopting a rescue animal through its Adoptober campaign. The RSPCA is the UK's biggest rehomer, finding 39,178 homes for pets last year - that’s 107 a day, or four an hour.

The RSPCA’s national centres and branches rehomed 7,480 dogs last year (2019).

But, this year, staff fear an impending dog welfare crisis as families suffering in the recession abandon their pets and others returning to work hand their pets over to rescue centres who are already struggling due to the financial impact of the pandemic.

Under the current Covid rehoming protocols anyone interested in fostering or adopting an animal from the RSPCA should visit the website - - to see which animals are available near you and should check with their local centre for the current process applicable in that area.

To offer an RSPCA rescue dog a new home please visit to find your paw-fect match.

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