Rise in number of people getting pets during the pandemic

Almost a quarter of adults in the UK had welcomed a new pet into their home since March 2020, a recent study has shown.

In figures, collated by Sainsbury’s Bank, found that almost half (47 per cent) of those who have got a new pet, or plan to get one, cite companionship and mental health support as the main reason.

Over two fifths (44 per cent) say their mental health has improved since introducing a pet into their lives.

Alongside a boost in spirits, over one in five (22 per cent) say their physical health has improved as they exercise more with their pet, a fifth (20 per cent) have made new friends in their neighbourhood and 14 per cent have explored new areas with their pet.

Jess with her foster family

Dogs come out on top as pet of choice, with 60 per cent of new pet owners opting for canines compared to 32 per cent who chose cats, and 5 per cent picking a rabbit.

Rescue centres have also seen a rise in the number of animals being adopted.

But Battersea Dogs Home research predicts that in the UK there is likely to be an increase of up to 27 per cent more dogs being abandoned or left to stray in the next five years.

Hannah Carter, 29, is one of the founders of P.A.W.S and lives in Peacehaven.

Hannah, one of the founders.

She said: “Please consider a rescue animal before buying from a breeder.

“Rescue animals need lots of time and patience before they will trust you, but you will have a life-long bond in the end. You need to be prepared to adapt your lifestyle for your new pet and to consider them as part of your family.

“Make sure the rescue you choose offers Rescue Back Up and matches you carefully with an animal that will suit your lifestyle well.”

Paws And Whiskers Sussex (P.A.W.S) was incorporated in January 2021.

Coco in foster care

It rescues cats and dogs from the U.K, usually helping families that can no longer keep their beloved pets.

The volunteers drive all over the country to collect animals in need of help.

Hannah said: “We also work with a public shelter in Romania rescuing homeless animals from the streets. Romania has a huge problem with stray animals

“All of our animals are assessed in loving foster homes before being matched with an adopted family.

Bodie in foster care

“There is a lot of stigma and misinformation around Romanian dogs which we are trying to change. They are all fully vaccinated and tested for disease before travelling and come into the UK with all the correct import paperwork.

“Street dogs can make amazing pets and don’t deserve to die just because of where they’re from.”

The charity has eight founders and two additional volunteers.

She said: “We have all worked in rescue for many years and have seen first hand the wrong way to run a rescue.

“Our aim is to offer a complete service for people looking to adopt a cat or dog, with lifelong support and a personalised matching process.

“Our primary concern is animal welfare and raising awareness of issues animals can face in the UK and overseas.”

To date PAWS has rescued 12 cats and 22 dogs. Hannah has four dogs, all rescues. Three from Romania and one from the UK.

She said: “We are currently fundraising for our rescue partner in Romania to run a spay day which will save thousands of unwanted animals being born into a life of uncertainty.”

All of the charity’s animals are placed in foster in the UK for further assessment before being advertised for adoption.

Hannah said: “This means we will need to limit the number of dogs we bring over each month but we would rather have quality over quantity.

“We offer 12-months Rescue Back Up but will of course be there to support our adoptees for the rest of their lives.

“And our brilliant behaviourist, Lucia offers regular Q&A sessions for fosterers and adopters to help with any problems which may arise.”

She added: “Our fosters treat our animals like one of their own during assessment. They build trust slowly and give them a warm bed, full bellies and a feeling of safety which some of them may have never had. They learn each animal’s likes and dislikes so we can find their perfect home.

“P.A.W.S simply could not function without our dedicated team of fosters.”

Jess (left and below), was the charity’s first dog in UK foster, she has settled amazingly, enjoying lots of lovely walks.

Hannah said: “Rescue can be hard work and very tiring, especially as our volunteers are unpaid and most of us work as well.

“All animals deserve to be safe and loved, seeing happy families with happy pets makes it all worthwhile. And then it’s on to the next animal that needs us.

A survey by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association also saw a rise in pet acquisition with 2.1m families having collected a new pet in lockdown

Nicole Paley, PFMA deputy chief executive, said: “However, we’re keen to highlight the long-term responsibilities of bringing a pet into your life. This is an unprecedented period with unusual working conditions.

“New owners need to seriously think about future possible obstacles that could make life with a pet slightly more challenging. Owners need to consider their pet when thinking about return to work plans, any possible future hit on finances, less time available and the possibility of separation anxiety for their pet.”

“Also, when looking for a new addition, families need to do lots of research.  

“Sadly, there are unscrupulous breeders out there who are willing to take advantage of the rising demand.  

“And, as highlighted by Lucy’s Law, it is so important to buy from a recognised breeder and please don’t forget the importance of rehoming too.”

For more information, visit facebook.com/PAWSfundraising or visit www.paws-rescue.org