RSPCA fears ‘lockdown puppies’ could add to welfare crisis

Date published: 06 October 2020

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 1,479 incidents this year about dogs in Lancashire 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 Lancashire dealing with 1,479 dog incidents.

The RSPCA fears next year could be worse. 

During lockdown, Google searches for ‘Puppies near me’ increased sixfold (650%) 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.

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.

“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.”

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); 129 dogs were rehomed in Lancashire.

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.

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

If you’re not in a position to give a pet a home this October, you can still help thousands of animals in care by donating at:, sponsoring a dog kennel or cat pod for just £1.50 a week, or supporting the work of your local RSPCA here

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