This Jack Russell Terrier, named Patch, is going for some exercise and attention with a Battersea dog handler.
The four-year-old pup arrived at the London animal rescue centre earlier this month, after being found as a stray.
He – and many others like him – are now hot property, thanks to a surge in rehoming demand linked to the pandemic.
Chief executive Peter Laurie says the charity rehomed almost every animal in its care last March, as the coronavirus pandemic ripped through the country and people under lockdown searched for company.
In one week last March, Battersea – which has three centres across London, Berkshire and Kent – rehomed 155 dogs and cats, the best result they’ve had in over a decade. They’ve received thousands of applications a week since then.
“When the pandemic started back in March last year, we saw extraordinary rehoming demand, we had queues of people desperate to adopt a dog or a cat,” he says.
“And we able to be rehome almost every animal in our care in the space of a couple of weeks, which was great.”
But that’s now beginning to change.
Laurie says they’re now starting to see so-called “pandemic pets” starting to be given up, as England lifts its latest COVID-19 lockdown.
“As people gradually return to offices, people start thinking about taking holidays as well. I think very sadly, we’re going to see people returning their dogs and cats,” he says.
“A lot of people bought puppies very early on in the pandemic, those puppies will have grown into adult dogs now. And some of those behaviours may be becoming a little bit more challenging now, and people may be thinking now it’s getting too difficult. So sadly, I think we’re going to see an upturn in relinquishment.”
Earlier this month, authorities in England allowed shops, gyms, hairdressers, restaurant patios and beer gardens to reopen after months of lockdown.
Indoor drinking and dining won’t be allowed in England until May 17 at the earliest, and theatres, cinemas, nightclubs and most other venues remain closed, while indoor socialising is tightly restricted and foreign holidays remain banned.
A tail as old as time
In what Laurie calls a “gradual trend”, the number of dogs and cats coming to Battersea has doubled in the last couple of months.
Such upticks are not unheard of. Battersea saw a significant increase in stray dogs across the UK during the last recession.
“People have to move home, and they couldn’t take their animal with them. Quite a few people have obviously come to us and said that they can no longer keep their animals because of financial aspects through redundancies and job losses. So, that’s been really unfortunate that they’ve had to obviously give up their pet to us,” says cattery rehoming team leader, Kate Collins.
“But on the flip side of that, we do take in any animal that comes to us, dog or cat. And we do our best to make sure we can rehome them to a really lovely home.”
Like all organisations, Battersea has had to adapt its working practices amid the pandemic.
It closed its doors to visitors for the first time in its 160-year history, began delivering dogs and cats to people’s homes, and replaced traditional physical introductions to ones via video calls.
“This past year we’ve obviously changed and adapted to a totally different way of rehoming. A lot of the things we did before, we’d have customers coming up, meeting cats,” says Collins.
“Unfortunately, in lockdown we couldn’t have that. So, what we’ve done is have a lot more of a remote rehoming in process.”