Dogs the innocent victims of the coronavirus pandemic

One of the innocent victims of the coronavirus pandemic has sadly been man's best friend.

As people were put on lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, there was a surge in ownership for canine companions.

But the RSPCA fears many dogs will now be abandoned due to families struggling in the recession and others returning to work.

It could see rescue centres, like Newbrook Farm Animal Hospital in Frankley Green, Birmingham, near Halesowen, swamped with new arrivals.

The animal centre, at Frankley Green, Birmingham, near Halesowen

And that is despite these facilities being pushed to breaking point from the the financial impacts of Covid-19.

At least 378 dogs have been rehomed in the West Midlands this year, at centres like Newbrook Farm, but this is expected to rise. In Staffordshire, the figure stands at 185.

Animal care assistant Demi McCormack, from Dudley, with Massive, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who has just come up for rehoming

The charity has seen a drop in donations due to the difficulties brought on by the August recession.

And this is also hampering the charity's ability to deal animal welfare calls – where hundreds are coming in each day.

Cats are also looked after by the RSPCA. Animal care assistant Sara Szarwinski, from Wordsley, with a cat called Olive, who should be going to a new home very soon

On average over the summer, the RSPCA has been receiving more than 100 calls every hour.

In the West Midlands, there has been at least 2,211 dog incidents in 2020, but this is expected to rise next year. In Staffordshire, there has been 965 incidents so far.

One example was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, called Zena, who was abandoned with her mouth bandaged shut and with severe leg injuries.

Zena is on the road to recovery. Picture: RSPCA

The plight of dogs during the pandemic, which has largely gone unnoticed in the public's eye, has prompted the RSPCA to launch a funding appeal, so it can carry on looking after abandoned and neglected dogs.

A spokesman for the charity said: "Sadly, the effects of the coronavirus crisis are hitting home and we face a serious funding problem."

The rise in demand was illustrated by a surge in Google searches for "puppies near me" in July, where 15,000 entries were submitted – five times higher than the same period in July 2019.

This increasing demand is in turn fuelling more puppy farms, where dogs can be breed in cruel conditions, and the import of puppies from overseas.

Figures have revealed the number of licenses doubled for the commercial import of dog between June and August, rising up to 12,733.

In comparison, the figure was 5,964 in the same period last year.

Fraudsters have also cottoned on to the gap in the market, with West Midlands Police warning people have handed over hundreds of pounds for kittens and puppies, which were falsely advertised.

As a result of exploitive sellers, the RSPCA has encouraged buyers to use a tool called The Puppy Contract, which allows people, and breeders, to buy and sell puppies safely.

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: "We know that there are not enough puppies bred in the UK to meet the demands of those who want to buy them.

"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."

Alternatively, people are being urged to adopt rescue dogs from kennels and rescue centres, as part of the RSPCA's for October, called Adoptober.

The charity is the biggest re-homer of dogs in the UK, finding 39,178 homes for pets last year, which equates to 107 a day, or four an hour.

To donate to the RSPCA, visit the charity's website at rspca.org.uk

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