Rescue workers say animals are ‘forgotten victims’ of coronavirus

Rescue workers say animals are 'forgotten victims' of coronavirus
Rescue workers say the crisis facing animals has been forgotten (Picture: Oakwood Dog Rescue/ Laura Slade)

Staff at rescue shelters across the UK say animals are dying due to the social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Current social-distancing measures have seen thousands of centres forced to close to the public and temporary freeze adoptions. For some, this has resulted in a catastrophic drop in income, but with high numbers of animals still to be cared for.

The government financial support for charities does not include animal welfare, and for these places, staff can’t be furloughed because their work is still essential. This means the shelters can now only take in new animals in ’emergency’ cases.

Oakwood Dog Rescue, in Hull, has seen their fundraising programmes be decimated by the lockdown. Centre manager Nicola Hardy told that dogs will ‘definitely’ die as a result of the pandemic.
(Picture: Oakwood Dog Rescue)
Dogs are being forced to spend longer in shelters than usual (Picture: Oakwood Dog Rescue)
(Picture: Oakwood Dog Rescue)
The shelter has lost huge amounts of funding (Picture: Oakwood Dog Rescue)
As well as taking in abandoned UK dogs, the shelter also looked after animals rescued from Romania before international travel was suspended worldwide. Ms Hardy said: ‘There are dogs that are going to end up dead, whether it’s because they are trapped abroad and can’t come over, or their owners can’t find rescue space and there is no other alternative than for them to be euthanised.

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‘There is no happy answer to any this. This whole thing is just incredibly difficult for everybody.’

Oakwood Dog Rescue depends entirely on adoption fees, fundraising events and training sessions to pay their costs. Last week they suffered further after thieves brazenly stole a van from their grounds. The team had already declared it off the road in a bid to save money, and so it was no longer insured.
(Picture: Oakwood Dog Rescue)
A rescue programme from Romania has been put on pause (Picture: Oakwood Dog Rescue)
(Picture: Oakwood Dog Rescue)
They can now only take on emergency cases (Picture: Oakwood Dog Rescue)

Ms Hardy: ‘We understand exactly why the lockdown measures are necessary but the impact has been horrific. We have families waiting to adopt but we can’t make it happen. The dogs at the centre are trapped.

‘We also don’t want to take on more dogs if we can’t financially look after them. It’s a really sad situation to be in, there are still animals that need us.’

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Ms Hardy said the shelter is trying to ‘rescue themselves’ through online fundraising, adding: ‘We ask people to give us £1 a month – nobody notices £12 when it leaves their bank account, but we notice when it reaches ours.’

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One dog breed particularly at risk are greyhounds, as racing has been suspended due to coronavirus.

Trainers who usually make a fixed amount of money from racing have been granted 50p per dog per day from the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB). Some of this money has come out of the funding for industry sponsored shelters.
Greyhounds /dogs
Greyhound racing is currently suspended due to the pandemic (Picture: Laura Slade)
Greyhounds /dogs
Dogs can be put down if they can’t find a shelter to go to (Picture: Laura Slade)
The grant will give trainers just over £1,000 a month. Peter Harnden, a Greyhound Trainers Representative with 69 dogs, estimated that his monthly costs come to more than £6,400.
Under GBGB Rules of Racing, dogs can be put down if they become injured, are unsuitable as a pet, or if a shelter for them cannot be found.thumbnail for post ID 12601248Matt Hancock thanks Muslims for staying at home during RamadanLaura Slade, who has volunteered at the Celia Cross Greyhound Trust for 10 years, fears animals are becoming the ‘the forgotten victims of Covid-19’. The shelter has lost all their face-to-face funding and are only able to take on desperate cases.

She says dogs picked up by the local authorities are also at risk of being euthanised if they are not rescued within seven days.

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Laura continued: ‘Funding cuts prevent shelters from stepping in. For example, if there’s a dog with a serious injury, it’s going to be a hard decision because surgery might be half a month’s kennel running cost.
Greyhounds /dogs
Laura Slade has volunteered with the Celia Cross Greyhound Trust for 10 years (Picture: Laura Slade)
Ashbourne Animal Welfare
It is now the busiest time of the year for shelters who take in cats (Picture: Ashbourne Animal Welfare)

‘There’s got to be more awareness of these issues. Animals are staying in kennels longer than they need to or they’re being euthanised because they have no where to go. It’s extremely worrying.’

This month cats are also at an increased risk as April is the start of ‘kitten season’, when they predominantly breed and give birth – causing a spike in rescue numbers.

Ashbourne Animal Welfare are now only able to take on emergency cases, and animals have to be isolated for three days. Shelter manager Barbara Robson says they are dealing with a ‘massive loss’ of income and a reduced number of staff. So-far, they have only accepted a pregnant dog whose owner died and an abandoned pregnant cat. Ms Robson said: ‘We have just enough people for the general running of the shelter, so the worry is that if one or two members of staff are off, we will really struggle. This is our busiest time of the year, with cats having lots of strays outside.’

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Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Dogs Trust, told that ‘now more than ever’ charities will be relying on public aid as ‘demand for our frontline services looks only set to increase’.

He said: ‘We are doing everything we can to minimise the impact of this crisis on dog welfare, and would urge anyone with an urgent need to give up their dog to get in touch with us.

‘The long-term impact of this emergency is yet to be felt. It’s likely animal rehoming centres will come under increased strain due to coronavirus in the coming months, at a time when charities are facing greater financial hardship.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said rehoming centres can give animals to new owners on a ‘case-by-case basis’, while ensuring ‘precautions are taken and guidance is followed’. You can donate to Oakwood Dog Rescue here, Celia Cross Greyhound Trust here, and Ashbourne Animal Welfare here.

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