Animal charity fears rise in abandoned pets after surge in adoptions during lockdown

The RSPCA has raised concerns about the number of people struggling to cope after adopting animals for company during lockdown.

Thursday, 7th January 2021, 4:45 pm

The animal welfare charity saw a rise in the number of people adopting pets during the first two national lockdowns, and is now asking people to consider whether they will be able to look after an animal in the long-term before taking on such a commitment.

Dermot Murphy, head of the RSPCA’s animal rescue teams, said: “During the lockdown there have been reports of a rise in people buying or adopting new pets, often for the very first time.

"While it’s great that so many people have become pet owners and have found their pet to be a real source of comfort during these challenging times, we are concerned that some people may have bought a pet on impulse without considering how their lifestyle might change once the pandemic ends.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Stock picture of a dog provided by the RSPCA. Picture used for illustrative purposes only

"On top of that, we are facing real economic uncertainties, and, as in previous recessions, people may simply find themselves unable to afford their pet.

“The last thing we want to see is animals dumped and left out in the cold so we’d urge anyone who is struggling to care for their pets to please reach out to friends, family and charities for support instead.”

A poll by the RSPCA, conducted by YouGov, revealed that just over one in ten (11 per cent) of pet owners had taken on a pet during lockdown and, of those, nearly one in ten (nine per cent) said their pet had been more expensive than they had expected. Just over one in 20 (6 per cent) were worried about being able to afford them in the future.

A third of adults in Britain who own a pet (33 per cent) said they were worried that pets bought during lockdown will be abandoned if people returned to work, and 31 per cent said they were concerned that pets will be dumped if people were struggling.

Mr Murphy added: “We would always urge anyone considering getting a pet to thoroughly do their research to make sure they can give them the time, money and care they need for the rest of their lives.

"As the impact of the pandemic puts a strain on people’s finances and as many people start to return to work or some kind of normality, the fear is that we will see a surge in abandoned and neglected animals coming into our care.”

Data from the RSPCA has revealed that the charity saw a 68 per cent rise in unique views to its Find a Pet section of the website between March 23 and October 27 with 30,466,023 views.

Google keyword searches for ‘Puppies near me’ increased 650 per cent between January to July 2020, compared with the previous year.

‘Adopting a dog’ saw a 204 per cent increase in searches, while ‘kittens near me’ saw an 188 per cent increase from previous year.

Government figures show that the numbers of licences issued for the commercial import of dogs rose 87 per cent.


In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.