Dogs are man’s best friend. And in a time where meeting your best friends are illegal, this is truer than ever. As chefs, commuters and students alike discover new abundances of free time, they have turned to new furry friends to help fill it.  

But animal shelters, an affordable, accessible origin of our beloved pets, have not been prospering during COVID-19, particularly during lockdowns. Fundraising shops were shut and centres closed, suspending their main source of revenue. In the first lockdown in March, the RSPCA made and emergency appeal as they had lost 90% of their income. Furthermore, lockdowns resulted in fewer volunteers and donations. Shelters have fewer financial resources, making it harder to care for the animals. Although the Welsh government has funded animal rescues, no government funding for the animal rescue sector in England has occurred to date.  

NGOs and municipalities had to pause sterilisation programmes that were a part of the human stay dog or cat population management. This meant the number of unwanted animals has increased in the short term. However, these strays are unlikely to survive for long as there are limited food sources. This is both due to the increased competition from a larger stray population, and also the closure of restaurants and rubbish stations where they would have scavenged their meals from. Despite their own plight, many shelters have taken in more strays over lockdown as they are considered emergency intake. Battersea Cats and Dogs shelter is one of these shelters. 

With a motto of “every cat or dog should live in a home where they are treated with love, care and respect”, their policy of non-selective intake in rare, but unsurprising. This policy means that they will accept any breed of animal at any age, which includes those with serious medical or behavioural problems.  However, the coronavirus crisis has suspended the policy and closed the centre to visitors until further notice. They have produced a highly detailed risk assessment available to the public, to establish sensible measures to its staff members and visitors. Staff representatives were consulted on the assessment and continued development on hazards and policies, which will be reviewed at least quarterly in light of the government’s changing advice.  

Despite the number of temporary adoptions increasing, the number of real adoptions has not increased and even decreased in some cases. A pet is not just for lockdown. Instead of making frangible commitments, support shelters during this time by donating money, food or materials.