Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Defra’s animal welfare team has been in regular contact with the sector to understand the impacts and what is needed from government. I am grateful for the work done by animal welfare charities to promote advice for pet owners and look after animals during this difficult time.
The Association of Dogs & Cats Homes undertook surveys in April and May 2020 of their members and wider rescue and rehoming organisations to establish the extent of the impact of Covid-19 on the sector. Many rescue organisations have reported a reduction in the number of dogs being abandoned during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and there has been an increase in demand for dogs and other pets. We are continuing to monitor the effect on pet ownership of lifestyle changes stemming from the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Government recognises that the animal rescue and rehoming sector has been impacted by a significant reduction in income through charity shop closures, cancelled fundraisers and much reduced donations. It has been encouraging to see the sector working collaboratively to safeguard the welfare of animals in their care (including dogs) in the face of real financial hardship and uncertainty.
We have worked closely with the Canine and Feline Sector Group to agree and update guidance to animal rescue and rehoming organisations and pet businesses to enable them to undertake core operations as far as possible, while maintaining compliance with the social distancing rules and need for hygiene precautions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. We also provided pet owners, including those with dogs, with information about how to look after their animals during Covid-19: www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-people-with-animals.
The Government remains committed to continued engagement with welfare charities and the wider companion animal sector to understand the longer-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, monitor the animal welfare implications of this and offer appropriate advice.