The coronavirus pandemic may result in up to 40,000 stray or homeless dogs, a charity has warned.
Dogs Trust says that the economic effects of Covid-19 may force people to give up their pets or even put them to sleep if they cannot afford to keep them.
The charity says that in the year following the last major economic crisis – the financial crash of 2008 – the number of abandoned dogs rose by more than 25%.
Euthanasia rates also rose by 25% in the same period, meaning the coronavirus crisis could result in more than 1,800 dogs in local shelters being put to sleep unnecessarily.
Dogs Trust also predicts that the fallout of the pandemic could be worsened by added behavioural problems like separation anxiety that have developed during lockdown.
Demand for puppies increased massively during lockdown, with Google searches for “buy a puppy” increasing by 166% since late March.
Owen Sharp, chief executive of Dogs Trust, said: “In these extraordinary times we know that circumstances can change in a heartbeat.
“The sad reality is that in times of financial hardship many people struggle to cope with looking after their pets, and the number of abandoned dogs has gone up.
“We saw this in 2008, and we’re extremely concerned that history could repeat itself in the coming months.
“We’ve already taken a number of dogs in from owners who have sadly passed away from or been hospitalised with Covid-19.
“We’re doing everything we can to minimise the impact of this crisis on dog welfare, and would urge anyone needing to give up their dog to please turn to us first, and we’ll do everything we possibly can to help you and your dog.”
Dogs Trust has launched an urgent appeal to help ensure it can continue to provide help for dogs in need now and in the future.
The charity can be contacted on 0300 303 2188 by any dog owners that are struggling to look after their pets properly.
Donations can be made at www.dogstrust.org.uk/dogcrisis.