During the current circumstances the world is facing it is easy to understand why many people in quarantine are feeling incredibly lonely due to having to self-isolate away from friends and family however, there is a small group in society that are happy to be in doors with their family and that group is of course pets!
A study conducted by the University of York found that 90% of pet owners felt that their pets brought them emotional support during lockdown and a further 96% found that their pets were helping them remain healthy and active. Owning a pet can also bring structure and a routine to your life and for those struggling to feel motivated to complete their own daily tasks, having an animal to care for can help bring back some levels of normality into their lives.
For many people right now having another being in their home they can spend time with and interact physically with helps reduce the physical loneliness the national lockdowns have brought into our lives. The Office for National Statistics revealed 86% of women surveyed in January 2021 felt lonely whereas for men it was 74% during the pandemic.
There was a surge in people adopting animals in March 2020 when the first lockdown started. The Kennel Club dog charity revealed that 1 in 4 people surveyed by them have admitted to impulse buying a pet during lockdown. However, some people who impulsively bought puppies and other pets at the start of the lockdown have returned their pets to animal shelters as once they returned to work, they no longer could provide the proper care required.
Pets at Home employee Matthew Blaney said:” There has been an increase in adoptions since the pandemic started, we don’t hold rabbits in stores anymore and we have quite a lot of vacant spaces.
“People have taken pets home during the lockdowns and once things have gotten back to normal, they have realised they can’t take care of them, so they’ve came back. Whenever we do get them in as well, they tend to go quickly.
“When the pets come into us, we take all the information in about them, and we put that on a poster next to the animal so any customers can have a read at it and can ask us to give them a hand if needed and all proceeds from adopting the animal go to Support Adoption for Pets as a donation.”
Due to the pandemic Pets at Home have had to alter their rehoming process as a direct result of the virus and impulse buying. Blaney said: “We do have the power to say no if we believe a pet sale has been brought on by impulse, we will always tell them to go away and have a think about it and offer them a leaflet to take with them. We also have got barriers around the glass so you cannot physically go up and touch the glass that surrounds our bunny village and other enclosures.
“If you bring a pet out a lot of the time people gather round and crowds gather round so, we cannot do that, now we do it at a distance and customers will receive an email from us that holds all the information that they need.
“We will also discuss the five freedom and welfare needs about the animal the customer is interested in buying and the information that they need in order to conduct a health check on their pet, and we do one visually from a distance as well.”
The surge in animal adoption has not only impacted Pets at Home as the demand for puppies and kittens grows so does the price and risk involved in buying one from a private breeder. Puppies can cost anything from £800-£2000 and in some unfortunate cases arrive at their new homes ill and in bad condition due to them being a litter from an illegal puppy farm. Heather Flood, a young woman who is currently trying to adopt a puppy said:” We have been looking to adopt either a Labrador, Golden Retriever or a Cockerpoo but the price of puppies the now has led us to stop looking because the prices are far too high, we enquired a couple of times by emailing breeders directly through the Kennel Club but it’s too expensive, we’re hoping once restrictions ease, they’ll go down.
“We looked at the SSPCA to adopt a pet and we want to adopt one more than buy a puppy as so many dogs go through so much in their lives and are put into kennels, but we don’t have a garden or high fences so it would need to be if the dog suited us more than if we suited the dog.
“I think both my pre-lockdown life and post-lockdown life would be able to cater to a dog’s needs as if we were to bring a dog into our lives the now, we’d be able to spend loads of time with it as I’m studying from home both my parents are working from home and my mum will only be in the office one day a week from here on out.”
When asked what advice Matthew would give to someone who is considering adopting a pet during the pandemic he said: “Never make the decision to adopt on impulse, we have care leaflets on hand we can give to customers and we have the five freedom and welfare needs of the pets displayed on our bunny village as well so customers can get the basics needs of the animals before they look into buying a pet. Do some research and ask us questions.
“We’ve updated the Pets at Home YouTube channel so there’s lots of videos on how we feed the pets and how we interact with them so give them a watch and just make sure you read everything we provide you, know everything you’ll need, and make sure you have everything at hand before coming in to buy the pet.”
Pets are wonderful creatures and can bring lots of joy and excitement into your life when they are treated and cared for properly. If you wish to adopt a pet information surrounding adoption can be found on the Pet’s at Home website and in store.
The Five Freedom and Welfare Needs for Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Hamsters and Fish Are:
1) Suitable living conditions
2) Correct diet, including fresh water
3)Housing with/without other members of their species (This varies animal to animal)
4)Freedom from injury and disease
5)Ability to express normal behaviour and have freedom of pain
And always remember, animals are living, breathing, thinking beings and require lots of commitment, care, and affection. A dog is for life and they are not just a lockdown companion. Guinea pigs and rabbits can be a 6year+ commitment, they are not cute Easter gifts for young children or ‘easy’ starter pets.
Many animals given as gifts become neglected or returned, please adopt sensibly and always ensure you can provide the appropriate implementation of the five welfare and freedom needs for all pets- not just small animals before you take one home.