Fears of an “unwanted pet pandemic” have been raised after animal welfare workers revealed the number of people giving up their pets had more than doubled during lockdown.
Earlier this year, the Scottish SPCA reported calls about unwanted dogs shot up 103% while there was a 150% rise in those looking to get rid of their cats.
Last month, the charity warned rescue centres had “reached capacity” after animals were left neglected in lockdown.
Now, Aberdeen City councillor Ryan Houghton is urging, as lockdown measures are eased, for would-be pet owners to make sure they will be able to give animals a “forever home” before taking the responsibility on.
Otherwise, he warned, an “unwanted pet pandemic looms” in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Houghton, who represents the George Street and Harbour ward in Aberdeen, made the plea after seeing the Scottish SPCA report a “heartbreaking” 134% increase in people looking to give up unwanted animals between September 2020 and January 2021.
He said: “Pets have been a lifeline for many in lockdown, especially those living by themselves.
“However, there is a real concern that once people begin to normalise their routine again, we’ll find a lot of pets being put up for adoption without homes for them to go to.
“I would urge people to think twice about buying them, especially as a gift for someone, if they’re in any doubt about what’ll happen when work routines change again.”
While many employers will allow staff to remain working at home more often, there are some industries where that is not feasible.
Combined with the rush to restart social lives, to travel and to pick up pastimes hindered by the virus, there is concern a whole generation of pets could suddenly be left alone for the first time since joining their families.
At the turn of the year, Scottish SPCA chief superintendent, Mike Flynn, urged people to consider their “future lifestyle and how to help their pet adapt”.
He urged owners to spend time away from their animals so they could grow used to some solitude.
Last night, Mr Flynn said the charity remained “hopeful” that lockdown pet additions would remain with their families.
“We believe Scotland is a nation of animal lovers and we’re hopeful that we won’t see an upsurge in pets coming in to our rescue and rehoming centres after lockdown,” he said.
“If anyone does have concerns about an animal, or their ability to care for their pet, they can call our animal helpline in confidence on 03000 999 999.”