Tuesday 23 March 2021 marks a year of lockdowns and with 11% of households taking on a new pet during the covid crisis*, the need for Blue Cross is higher than ever. The charity looks back on how it changed its entire way of working to continue to help pets and their owners throughout times when pet rehoming and veterinary services were closed or drastically reduced.
Despite closures, the charity continued to help the pets most desperately in need, taking in almost 3,500 pets since the start of the first lockdown. Demand for Blue Cross pets rose dramatically, in May 2020 alone there was a 515% increase in online applications for dogs. To cope with the demand and to find pets a loving family of their own the charity increased rehoming through a ‘home direct‘ scheme which finds a new home for the pet while they are still with owners who can no longer keep them. The national network of dedicated volunteer pet foster carers also grew through a recruitment campaign and more than 2,000 pets were placed in foster care over the period, as a result loving new homes were found for over 3,000 cats, dogs, small pets and horses.
Sian Sharples, Blue Cross Rehoming Service Delivery Partner said: “We were overwhelmed by offers of support when we put out a call for volunteers to help us care for homeless pets when our centres were forced to close. We minimised staff at sites who were still needed to care for the homeless pets so we are so grateful to all those who came forward to volunteer for us, we simply couldn’t have helped the number of pets we did over this time and we are so grateful for all their support.“
Blue Cross animal hospitals in Grimsby and Victoria remained busy but were only able to admit seriously injured or sick pets for emergency treatment and the remaining two London hospitals closed during lockdowns. The charity had to quickly adapt to continue to help pets needing veterinary care with vets and vet nurses turning to virtual appointments for non-urgent cases to ensure pets continued to receive the medication and care they needed. Over two-thirds of the 70,000+ consults during the last year took place virtually via telephone or video.
Any pets urgently needing to see a vet were admitted while their owners waited outside, talking to the vet over the phone. Despite the major disruption to clincial services at the charity’s animal hospitals over the past year provided essential diagnostics, such as x-rays and blood tests , to aid pets in urgent need.
Caroline Reay, Blue Cross Head of Veterinary Service said: “We are so proud of the how the teams adapted so quickly from being in a bustling animal hospital environment to working on their own at home to support clients or offer advice to owners of sick or injured pets. We are also immensly grateful to all the volunteers who continued to support us and help pets by delivering essential medicines to owners who were unable to collect themselves.“
Blue Cross was also aware that the vast and sudden changes to a pet’s surroundings and routine, due to families being at home when they would usually be at work or in school, could be confusing and unsettling for them. The charity’s animal behaviour team sprang into action to offer advice to owners who were experiencing problems with their pet and also to support the many owners of new pets looking for help to settle their puppies and kittens into the home. The team launched a new animal behaviour line, open to any pet owner in the UK, to support owners needing help and have received over 500 calls so far since the helpline launched last April.
Blue Cross also continued to reach children and young people through virtual talks and workshops to promote animal welfare and staying safe around dogs – particularly important during a time when owners and their dogs were forced to spend more time together. The charity’s education team reached more than 28,500 children and young people over the period, essential learning for our pet owners of the future.
For those facing the loss of a pet, times were even harder during lockdown when owners were not able to be with their pets at the end and struggled to seek comfort from others. The charity’s Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS) understood how difficult this was for owners whose grief was further compounded by loneliness, lack of income and mental health issues and the service remained available to offer help, receiving almost 12,500 calls and emails since the start of lockdown. Over the run up to Christmas in December there was an increase of almost 40% of people seeking help compared to the year before.
Blue Cross is a charty and receives no government income. To help their work caring for sick, injured, homeless and abandoned pets visit www.bluecross.org.uk to make a donation. Visit the website for more information about the work of the charity including its rehoming and clinical services, PBSS and behaviour lines and education and public affairs work to improve the welfare of the nations pets across the UK.