THE RSPCA fears recession and the impact of ‘lockdown puppies’ will hit already-struggling rescue centres hard in coming months, especially after searches for puppies increased sixfold during lockdown.

This Adoptober – a campaign launched by the RSPCA to shine a light on adopting rescue animals – the charity aims to tackle the increasing number of incidents as it fears next year may result in an even higher figure.

The charity said 189,800 reports related to dogs were made to its emergency hotline in 2019, and 45,181 dog incidents have been dealt with this year (up to September 29).

Officers in Dorset dealt with 503 dog incidents in 2020 alone.

During lockdown, Google searches for ‘puppies near me’ increased sixfold, with 15,000 searches undertaken compared with 2,000 in January 2020.

The figures are worrying for the animal welfare charity, suggesting that this rise in demand is fuelling a concerning trend in breeding and importing of puppies.

This is a potentially exploitative and damaging trade which can cause suffering to dogs.

As a result of this, an impending dog welfare crisis could be on the horizon in 2021 as families return to normal life and may be unable to take care of the puppy they bought during lockdown.

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “We are all used to being able to buy whatever we want, when we want, it but we’re urging people to thoroughly do their research before committing to getting any dog and to make sure they don’t get caught out by people acting illegally or irresponsibly. We have lots of dogs waiting for their forever homes so please do consider getting a rescue dog.”

The deepening recession and concerns regarding furlough may also put financial pressure on families and the already-stretched resources of rescue centres.

The charity is urging families to do lots of research and ensure they can commit long-term to a dog before bringing one home.

This Adoptober, it is also championing the benefits of rescuing instead of buying a puppy.

Chris Sherwood added: “Although it is really tempting to buy a puppy, those from abroad may have been bred in poor conditions, leaving them with potentially serious medical and behavioural problems whereas adopting from somewhere like the RSPCA where staff have really got to know the dog, means you get the support you need.”

“If families would still prefer to buy a dog, we’re encouraging them to use The Puppy Contract. This is a free online tool that will help find responsible breeders and a happy, healthy dog.”