“A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”. This same motto has been repeated by the Dogs Trust for the last 38 years. So is it still true that the number of abandoned pets goes up over the Christmas period?
Amy De-Keyzer from the RSPCA disagrees, “There is somewhat of a myth that more animals are abandoned after Christmas than any other time of year, but that’s not actually what our figures show. We launched a campaign a few months back as the summer months are actually when we see a spike in abandonment. In 2015, 741 animals were abandoned in January compared to 1,087 in July and 626 in December.”
The RSPCA were forced to launch the campaign after the number of abandoned animals soared over the summer months from July to September with one animal being rescued each hour across the UK. The result of the campaign showed that people were in fact, far more likely to abandon their pets at this time of year- more so than after the Christmas period as many people believe. It is thought that one reason for this is owners going on holiday without making appropriate arrangements for their pets whilst they are away. This silent problem puts a huge strain on rescue centres and rehoming facilities who struggle to deal with the influx of unwanted pets.
RSPCA Supt Simon Osborne says, “People often think that Christmas is the time we see the most abandoned animals but it is actually the summer. Whether it is the fact that more pets are abandoned in the summer because the novelty of their Christmas present has worn off by this time, we will never know. It could be a number of reasons. There is a huge strain on our resources at this time of year because of this.”
A dog brought into a home with the correct commitment can provide companionship, loyalty and stability to those who need it most- which explains why dogs are the nations’ favourite pet with around 8.5 million canines living in the UK. In addition, there are a huge number of other benefits to owning a dog; for example, it has been shown to improve a person’s health and wellbeing over time. Stroking a dog can help to lower blood pressure and release endorphins that create the feeling of happiness. As a result dogs are able to reduce stress levels and help those with depression, with many dogs and puppies taken to care homes as therapy for the elderly residents.
Over half of households in the UK own a pet, with dogs a firm favourite sitting at the top of the list. So why is there still such a large number being handed over to animal rescue shelters?
Elise Watson is the Manager of the Rehoming Centre at Ilfracombe Dogs Trust, She says; “There is no denying that we are a nation of animal lovers, but sadly sometimes that love can blind people and they may rush into getting a dog, often without ample research.
They do come with long-term responsibilities that will have a lasting impact on their new owner’s life. We are reminding people that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas and if you are thinking about getting a dog in 2017, to consider rehoming a rescue dog”.
Natasha Dayman did just this. She lives in Colchester with her eight-year-old daughter and her husband. They recently made the decision to get a dog and chose to pay a visit to their local dog rescue centre, “A dog was always part of the plan and when we moved into our new house earlier this year we knew it was something that was high on our list of priorities. I went along to dog rescue near to where I live a few days after Christmas.
They introduced us to Kellie, a two-year-old collie cross breed, and we took her for a walk around the site. She was so calm and placid. They asked us lots of questions about why we were looking to adopt a dog- which was good as it made me feel like they care about the homes their dogs are going to.
They also told us they don’t allow people to adopt in the days leading up to Christmas, which I think is to prevent people who are adopting on impulse or giving us a present. Bringing her into our home over Christmas was fine as we are a very chilled out house!”
Animal abandonment is a serious problem in the UK, regardless of time of year. Unfortunately the spike in dogs abandoned in the summer months goes unnoticed by many, who assume that after Christmas is the busiest time for shelters. The need for appeals and campaigns during the year shows the strain that the shelters are under from owners who either do not have the time or resources to look after their pet. Whether you are bringing a pet into your home over Christmas or the middle of summer, a pet is for life.