Demand for pet dogs surged enormously across Ireland during the Covid-19 lockdown, as families found themselves at home more. This has been reflected in the rise in prices for pedigree dogs, as well an increase in thefts from those looking to profit illicitly from the increased demand.
Dog-rescue charity Mutts Anonymous Dog Rescue and Adoption (Madra) has witnessed the upsurge in demand first-hand.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday (Monday), Madra operations manager Dawn Divilly said the rescue centre has been inundated with inquiries during the lockdown.
“Demand for dogs has gone through the roof,” she said. “Throughout the lockdown we’d have gotten quadruple the demand that we would normally get for fostering and adoption.
“As soon as the country went into lockdown people started to think, ‘I’m at home now for the foreseeable future, it’d be a good time to foster or adopt a dog’. We wouldn’t be the only rescue that had that demand.
“We’d assume that the demand would’ve come from people working at home or who lost their jobs and found themselves in a position to be able to adopt a dog, whereas they mightn’t have in the past.”
The majority of inquiries have been for family-friendly breeds, particularly puppies, Dawn explained.
“If you’ve a young family and young children you have to be very careful in the type of dog you get, so maybe that’s why some people will get a puppy, because they’re very safe for families and children.
“Hopefully people will realise rescues can offer fantastic dogs. If they adopt a dog from us it will be a Madra dog for life, we’ll always be there for support throughout the life of the dog.”
Despite dog pounds being closed during lockdown, the flow of dogs from Mayo and Galway being left into Madra’s shelter in Camus in Connemara has remained steady.
She said that the ongoing uncertainty caused by Covid-19 makes it difficult to know if they will experience an increase in the number of dogs being surrendered in the coming months, just like the inevitable increase that is seen every year after Christmas.
“It’s difficult to know what’s going to happen with this talk of a second wave. The dogs are going to keep coming, and we’ll keep looking after them as best we can.
“It could be something very gradual, but it depends on so many other factors, it’s very hard to tell. It may certainly happen that a lot of people’s circumstances change negatively and they’re not able to carry on having a pet.”
The four-month closure of all of Madra’s charity shops and the cancellation of their major fundraisers has left them in a difficult financial position. In addition to housing and feeding the animals, medical bills for some dogs can be as high as €2,000.
However, Dawn says the fundraising efforts from individual supporters has been ‘amazing’.
“We’ve had to re-think how we do things. We’re getting [our shops] open now, but we’re only able to open them part-time with social distancing and hand sanitising.
“Thankfully we’ve an amazing group of supporters. Yesterday one of our volunteers ran a marathon around the shelter doing 92 loops. He’s raised nearly €6,000. There’s another lady that’s doing a walk from Galway to Wexford, so that’s a huge help.”