The global coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) has had a profound impact on dog rescue centres in the UK.
The hero staff and volunteers at centres like Holly Hedge in Bristol – a past participant of our charity lottery – are struggling to cope with an increased number of rescues while the current financial climate puts a huge strain on their resources.
Dog rescue centres provide vital support to their communities, and have continued to do so as much as possible throughout this difficult time – although sadly, some centres have had no choice but to close.
Shelters provide a lifeline to desperate pet owners who have no choice but to surrender their beloved animal when they can no longer care for them – a situation that has become much more common during the pandemic. The truth is that without rescue centres, these pets could end up as strays and euthanised in a pound if a home can’t be found, or in a home that’s unsuitable for them.
With a second national lockdown in full swing, the hardships faced by incredible centres like Holly Hedge are ongoing, and as these shelters look to a post-pandemic world, there’s a very real risk that even more animals will be abandoned.
Holly Hedge Animal Sanctuary has been running as a local independent charity for 28 years, but it’s safe to say that 2020 has been its most challenging year yet. We are so grateful to them for kindly sharing their experience of the pandemic and the impact that Covid-19 has had on the dog rescue centre.
Fundraising and Finances
Holly Hedge, like many dog rescue centres who rely on the kindness of the public to fund their important work, has had to cancel most of its major fundraising events this year. Through these events, the shelter typically aims to raise £30,000 towards running costs. What’s more, the second national lockdown has forced Holly Hedge to close its charity shop to the public once again, further hampering their ability to raise funds.
While the country struggles through this pandemic, needy dogs at animal shelters still need to be cared for and vet bills still need to be paid. Yet even with the increased number of dogs being abandoned, these worthwhile charities have continued to operate without government support.
In the early stages of the pandemic, the UK government announced financial support packages for some charities, zoos and aquariums to enable them to continue operating. Shockingly, animal welfare charities were left out and, despite calls for increased support, they continue to receive zero financial backing from the government.
Rescue centres like Holly Hedge have had to come up with innovative ways to continue raising much-needed funds. Earlier in the year, the team at Holly Hedge hosted a ‘Big Weekend In’ fundraising event instead of their annual ‘Fun Day’ which featured an online pet show and raffles. They will also be holding an online Christmas auction this year as part of their festive fundraising efforts.
Staff and Volunteers
Holly Hedge relies on a team of dedicated and selfless volunteers to care for the animals on site, but sadly the pandemic has prevented them from visiting the centre. These volunteers would typically help with everyday care activities, such as feeding, walking and spending time with the animals.
Without these volunteers, the shelter’s small team of 15 staff members have been providing care unassisted, putting a huge strain on their already stretched capacity. As much as the team are doing a fantastic job, the animals are undoubtedly missing the extra cuddles, walks and playtime they would get with their favourite volunteers.
The Knock-on Effect on Animal Welfare
A report conducted by the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes earlier this year found that 77% of shelters in the UK had stopped taking in animals due to difficulties arising from the pandemic. Holly Hedge was amongst the 23% that continued to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome animals, despite the huge strain on its workforce and charity funds.
Throughout the pandemic, Holly Hedge has seen a huge demand for its services with many pet owners having no choice but to abandon their much-loved animals due to financial concerns or health difficulties. Sadly, the pandemic has had a devastating knock-on effect on animal welfare.
Nationwide lockdowns and travel restrictions have resulted in a floundering economy where thousands of companies are having to make staff redundant in a bid to keep afloat. Many people have found themselves out of work and are having to move house or make cutbacks. In some cases, pet owners have no choice but to move to a property that is unsuitable for their pet or where they are not allowed to have a pet at all. Others are finding that they simply cannot afford to care for their pet and keep up with the cost of food, supplies and veterinary treatment.
More and more people are finding that they have no choice but to surrender their beloved furry friend to an animal shelter like Holly Hedge. Staff at the centre are grateful that owners are choosing to surrender their pets to them because they are able to provide vital veterinary treatment, rehabilitation and diligently check all potential future owners. The problem is that animal rescue centres are facing financial crisis while experiencing an increased demand for their services, and some are very sadly having to close their doors altogether.
Is a Puppy Welfare Crisis on the Horizon?
So what happens when everyone goes back to work and life returns to some kind of normality?
Animal shelters like Holly Hedge are already thinking about the future and are concerned about the prospect of a puppy welfare crisis in the wake of Covid-19.
With many people being furloughed from their jobs or being forced to work at home, interest in adopting dogs has skyrocketed. Puppies need a lot of attention, so all these months at home makes now a great time to find a new furry family member.
This is great news for the thousands of dogs who have been patiently waiting for a loving forever home, and in many cases, these pandemic rescues are a dog’s ‘happy ever after’. Sadly though, this won’t always be the case.
There is a lot to think about when you adopt a dog. It’s not just about staying home and giving them lots of love and cuddles. Puppies need to be socialised with other dogs and humans so they don’t become fearful or anxious, or develop destructive or aggressive behaviour. While most dogs absolutely love to spend time with their owner, they need to know how to settle down by themselves. Unfortunately, the end of the pandemic will likely cause behavioural changes in many dogs, with some experiencing extreme distress when adjusting to ‘real life’ as their owner goes back to work.
2020 has been a challenging year for dog rescue centres like Holly Hedge. They have showed strength, resilience and an unwavering commitment to the increasing number of abandoned dogs, all the while dealing with financial uncertainty and staff and volunteer shortages.
It has never been more important to support dog rescue centres, and that’s why here at DoggyLottery we are so grateful to all of our wonderful lottery players who continue to play our game and support dog rescue centres with funds they desperately need. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
If you’re new to DoggyLottery, then welcome! From just £1.50 per week, you can play our fun game and be in with a chance of winning a cash prize, all the while helping wonderful dog rescue centres continue their important work.