A top animal charity has warned that pets are a long-term commitment after seeing a huge increase in people looking for puppies in the lockdown caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Godmanchester-based Wood Green said searches for “puppy” on its website had jumped by more than 1,000 per cent in four weeks.
It believes that people spending more time at home because of the lockdown feel it is an ideal time to take on a new pet - without taking into account the commitment a pet will need, especially in few months’ time when life is expected to start getting back to normal.
Linda Cantle, director of pet and owner support services at the charity, said: “It’s understandable that so many people are now looking into getting a new pet.
“It might seem like a good time to settle a puppy or new pet as people are spending more time at home, and both the pet and owner will benefit from the companionship.”
She said: “However, choosing and welcoming a new pet into your home can be a time-consuming and hands-on process, and new owners need to be prepared for what pet ownership entails.
“Although we don’t know how long we will need to practise social distancing, we do know that life will return to normal at some point – whereas the average life span for cats and dogs is more than 10 years.”
The charity, set up in 1924, has become one of the biggest animal rehoming centres in Europe, specialising in the care of unwanted and lost dogs, cats and other small pets. It can rehome thousands of animals a year and has up to 500 under is roof at any one time.
It said would-be owners needed to take into account whether the animal would get on with other people and pets in the household, whether there would be enough time to look after it long-term, the financial implications and where the pet would come from.
Wood Green warned that puppies and kittens could be appealing which could lead to impulsive decisions, but the pet would require a long-term commitment for care, especially when the lockdown has gone and people return to work. This was likely to happen when the animal was approaching adolescence and likely to exhibit difficult behaviour.
It has already had animals handed in which were acquired during lockdown.
The charity has been hit by the lockdown, closing its rehoming centres and suspending the rehoming of animals. It has also closed its 19 shops which are a key source of income.
But Wood Green, which is appealing for donations, is still available for advice on pet ownership through woodgreen.org.uk/pet-advice.