Fears over ‘lockdown puppies’ as rescuers deal with 800 dog incidents in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 11:10 06 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:24 06 October 2020

Storm, a two-year-old Rottweiler at Eau Brink Rehoming Centre. Picture: RSPCA.

Storm, a two-year-old Rottweiler at Eau Brink Rehoming Centre. Picture: RSPCA.


Some 800 dog-related incidents in Norfolk have been reported already this year to the RSPCA - prompting concerns that the impact of ‘lockdown puppies’ will hit already-struggling rescue centres hard in coming months.

Sadie, a two-year-old Rottweiler at Eau Brink Rehoming Centre. Picture: RSPCA.Sadie, a two-year-old Rottweiler at Eau Brink Rehoming Centre. Picture: RSPCA.

The charity has revealed that 189,800 reports related to dogs were made to its emergency hotline in 2019 and 45,181 dog incidents have been dealt with this year up to September 29, with officers in Norfolk dealing with 800 dog incidents.

The RSPCA fears next year could be worse as Google searches for ‘puppies near me’ increased sixfold (650pc) during lockdown, with 15,000 searches compared to 2,000 in January.

Government figures show the numbers of licences issued for the commercial import of dogs more than doubled from 5,964 in June to August last year to 12,733 for the same three-month period this year.

The figures suggest the rise in demand is fuelling “a worrying trend in breeding and importing of puppies, a potentially exploitative and damaging trade which can cause suffering to dogs”, the charity has warned.

Concerns have also been raised among RSPCA experts that an impending dog welfare crisis could be on the horizon in 2021 as families return to normal life and may no longer be able to take care of the puppy they bought during lockdown.

Last year, the RSPCA found new homes for 282 dogs in Norfolk.

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “We have seen a rise in people searching for dogs to adopt during lockdown, which is fantastic, but at the same time, there appears to be a rise in people looking to buy puppies.

“We know that there are not enough puppies bred in the UK to meet the demands of those who want to buy them and, worryingly, there appears to be a surge in puppies coming in from outside the UK. The problem with this is that, although breeders from countries like Romania are licensed, we have no way of checking the conditions those animals are being kept in and we fear that sales like these could be fuelling cruel puppy farms as well as exposing puppies to long and stressful journeys.

“We are all used to being able to buy whatever we want when we want it but we’re urging people to thoroughly do their research before committing to getting any dog and to make sure they don’t get caught out by people acting illegally or irresponsibly,” Mr Sherwood said.

Throughout the month of October, the RSPCA is shining a light on animals in its care which need a new home and promoting the benefits of adopting a rescue animal through its Adoptober campaign.

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