Dogs Trust has warned that “tens of thousands” of stray or abandoned dogs could need help in the wake of the pandemic.
It comes as the demand for puppies has reportedly “soared” during lockdown, with online searches for puppy purchases up by 166% since lockdown began in March.
However, the charity warned of the “sharp rise” in the number of dogs abandoned or put down as families struggle to financially cope in light of the ongoing crisis.
The group now estimates that 40,000 more dogs may end up stray or abandoned amid the expected financial crisis, which is set to be “on par or worse” than the 2008 crash, which itself saw a 25.6% increase in stray and abandoned dogs.
In addition, the charity expected that more dogs could be abandoned due to behaviour problems like separation anxiety, which may have developed or been aggravated as a result of lockdown.
The group warned that 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, meaning over 1,800 dogs in local authority shelters could be put to sleep unnecessarily.
Owen Sharp, CEO 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’ve already taken a number of dogs in from owners who have sadly passed away from or been hospitalised with Covid-19.”
He added: “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.”