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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Shutterstock/Helen Sushitskaya

People advised to 'think twice' before getting new pet during time of social distancing

The DSPCA fears people will return these pets when work and school routines go back to normal.

AN ANIMAL CHARITY has warned people to “think twice” before getting a pet at this time because they fear many animals will be returned to shelters after routines get back to normal. 

Head of education and communications at the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA), Gillian Bird, said the charity has had a “huge amount” of enquiries from people looking to foster and adopt.

“It’s been a fantastic response from the public, and we understand it because we have got people looking at weeks, potentially months of being at home,” Bird told 

However, Bird said the DSPCA is concerned that some people “who are working full time, who have kids in school” will not be able to fit these pets into their lives once Covid-19 social distancing measures end. 

The charity is also concerned that people will buy animals online, rather than foster or adopt, because many rescue centres are closed to the public. 

“People are sitting at home, bored on their phones looking at online platforms where you can buy animals or adopt them online,” she said. 

“There are the right homes out there but it’s just really a cautionary note for people to think twice before making this commitment.

People are pretty much confined to their house and back gardens… You’ll have a pooping, peeing, barking, chewing creature to add to the stresses.

“A lot of the animals bought online have come from disreputable breeders. Animals can be taken from homes when too young, inbred, bred in bad conditions where the animals are unhealthy and have bad genetic problems.”

Bird said families with no pets usually want their first to be a puppy. These require proper vaccination and regular worm treatment, which is more difficult at the moment as many vets are operating on an emergency-only basis. 


The charity fears that when life returns to normal for people, some new pet owners won’t factor in kennel charges or pet loneliness. 

“We could see a drastic increase in the number of people wanting to return their animals before Christmas,” Bird said. 

“We get calls every October and November from people with changing circumstances wanting to return pets after the summer.”

Bird said a similar trend was evident a few years after the recession. When people lost their jobs, they stayed at home with the animals and when they regained employment, they were returned to shelters in some cases.

“We’ve seen this happen historically,” Bird said.  

“If we hadn’t been educating people about the Christmas puppies and kittens, this would be worse but we fear this would be on a worse scale than after Christmas.” 

Every year, animal charities issue warnings that animals are not just for Christmas after many people receive them as gifts.

The DSPCA centre is closed to the public, but the charity is still running its rescue service and taking animals in. 

Bird recommends people during this time to look at fostering a pet first, rather than adopting or buying.  

Advice for pet owners right now

  • Ensure your pet is wearing a collar and tag at all times. It will be difficult to get microchips read by a rescue centre or vet right now as many are closed to the public. 
  • The tag should have the owner’s phone number on it. This could also be written on the collar. 
  • Be a responsible dog walker. Not everyone walking around parks or estates will be comfortable around dogs, so it is advisable to keep them on a lead when around other people. 
  • Don’t over-exercise your pet as it may end up injuring itself.
  • Make sure you have enough pet food and medication to last for a couple of weeks.

Anyone who is interested in fostering or adopting a dog from the DSPCA can contact or 

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