It is no exaggeration to say that since this Adjournment debate was announced, I have been engulfed by all sorts of animal charities wishing me to raise their plight in what is a very short debate. It is not possible to mention them all, but their excellent Members of Parliament will certainly do that. My hon. Friends the Members for North Norfolk (Duncan Baker) and for Dudley North (Marco Longhi) would like to catch your eye for a minute each, Madam Deputy Speaker, although they understand that the point of these debates is to allow the Minister some time to respond to the point that is being made.
My right hon. Friend Mr Francois is very concerned about animal charities in his constituency. My hon. Friend James Duddridge has Adventure Island in his constituency, and there is a wonderful charity there. My hon. Friend Jackie Doyle-Price has some animal welfare interests in her constituency; she is very concerned. My hon. Friend Rebecca Harris has Acres Way in her constituency, and she is very concerned about animal charities too.
The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly changed all our lives. In the long list of businesses, individuals and organisations that have been negatively affected by coronavirus, charities can often be overlooked—especially animal welfare charities. Charities in Southend and the rest of the country work tirelessly throughout the year to provide essential support to those who are most vulnerable and are often unable to help themselves. Animal charities do much of the same work, but instead care for animals that are unable to help themselves. It is up to Members of Parliament to seize the opportunity to speak for them. It is those types of charities that this debate will focus on.
Animal charities have been somewhat ignored during the coronavirus pandemic, and as a result they have suffered greatly, and so have the animals in their care. Animal rescue and care teams are being stretched to their absolute limits. As an industry, animal charities care for all animals, not just cats and dogs. Farm animal sanctuaries and equine charities, for example, are as important as the charities that focus on caring for more traditional pets. No charity should be discriminated against when it comes to financial support because of its size or the animals it cares for.
Animals, and especially pets, have become very important during the coronavirus pandemic. There has been a surge in the number of households with pets. Many who purchased a puppy during the pandemic agree that their dog was a lifeline in the lockdown. Although having a pet in the house during the lockdown is an attractive idea to many, as it can inject a new sense of life and optimism into the home, not everyone knows what looking after an animal entails. When households rush into buying an animal, and subsequently fail to look after it properly, it is the animals that suffer. According to a survey undertaken by the Kennel Club between March and June last year, 38% of breed rescue organisations saw zero dogs come into their organisations. That could be because dog owners were apprehensive about going to a breed rescue because of lockdown rules.
Many households may not be reporting animal cruelty as much because lockdown prevents them from witnessing it, and they may not be returning pets because they cannot leave their homes, but that does not that mean that animal cruelty is not happening. As such, it is very important that lockdown restrictions allow people to relinquish their pets if they cannot meet their welfare needs.