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Guinea pig and hamster shortage in Kent as puppy ownership surges during lockdown

Suddenly guinea pigs are worth their weight in gold and everyone should hang on to their hamsters.

After a run on buying dogs during lockdown anything small and fury is now in short supply, says The Pet Shop in Sittingbourne .

Hamsters are in short supply, says The Sittingbourne Pet Shop
Hamsters are in short supply, says The Sittingbourne Pet Shop

After reports that desperate animal lovers had been camping in deckchairs outside her shop in the High Street, manager Amye Brobyn confirmed: "There is a shortage of anything small and fluffy."

But she added: "I didn't see anyone camping outside the shop, however, we have a very long waiting list.

"Many of the guinea pigs we had delivered recently were all spoken for and sold before they came in. We have just got rid of our last two but we are hoping for another delivery in November."

She said: "There has definitely been a pet boom during lockdown. I suppose with the children all at home many parents didn't have an excuse to put off buying a pet any longer.

"First, it was the price of puppies which went sky high. A Labrador which would have cost £995 at Christmas you won't get for under £2,000 now. And cockapoos (a cocker spaniel and poodle-cross) are now fetching £3,000.

"The only worry is when the re-homing will start and the children get fed up. That's the sad bit.

"But it's nice when people are prepared to wait for their pet. It shows a commitment and proves it isn't being bought on a whim. We had one woman who waited three months to get a grey rabbit."

Facebook notice that there had been a hamster delivery to the Pet Shop in Sittingbourne
Facebook notice that there had been a hamster delivery to the Pet Shop in Sittingbourne

She said bearded dragons and tortoises had also been popular but now hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils and rats were top of the shopping list.

Seven-week-old hamsters can command £13.50 - if you can get your hands on them.

And the shortage has been reported across the county, she added.

Meanwhile the RSPCA is urging anyone thinking of taking on a dog to Adopt Don’t Shop to mark the start of 'Adoptober' as new figures reveal the number of people looking for puppies online during lockdown soared by 650% and imports of dogs doubled.

Google searches for ‘Puppies near me’ increased more than six times, with 15,000 in July 2020 compared to 2,000 in January 2020. The figure was also five times higher than the same month last year.

And government figures show the numbers of licences issued for the commercial import of dogs more than doubled from 5,964 between June and August last year to 12,733 for the same three-month period this year.

The figures suggest this rise in demand is fuelling a worrying trend in the breeding and importing of puppies.

The trade can be exploitative and damaging and can cause life-long suffering to dogs.

By the end of September the RSPCA had responded to 94,277 incidents in 2020 - almost half relating to dogs.

Lurcher Bandit is among those looking for a home
Lurcher Bandit is among those looking for a home

Chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “We have seen a rise in people searching for dogs to adopt during lockdown, which is fantastic, but at the same time, there appears to be a rise in people looking to buy puppies.

“We know that there are not enough puppies bred in the UK to meet the demands of those who want to buy them and, worryingly, there appears to be a surge in puppies coming in from outside the UK. The problem with this is that, although breeders from countries like Romania are licensed, we have no way of checking the conditions those animals are being kept in and we fear that sales like these could be fuelling cruel puppy farms as well as exposing puppies to long and stressful journeys.

“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. 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 advice and 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.”

RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “We are concerned that some families may not be considering the long-term commitment of taking on a dog and how they’ll care for their new pet post-lockdown.

“We’re worried that as people return to their normal lives and people are hit by recession we could see more dogs coming into our care or being abandoned. The message here is simple: do lots of research to help find the right pet for your family and don’t impulse buy.

“We’re also worried that more families will hand their dogs into rescue due to behaviour problems that have emerged due to changes in routines and set-ups caused by lockdown. During the past few months we’ve seen more visits to our website from people seeking advice on their dog’s behaviour with a 105% increase in visits to our ‘Understanding dogs’ behaviour’ pages, compared to last year, and a 27% increase in visits to our ‘Find a behaviourist’ pages.

“Dogs can be sensitive to changes to their routine and we’d urge anyone who is concerned about their pets’ behaviour to speak to their vet or to a clinical animal behaviourist for help.”

To offer an RSPCA rescue dog a new home please click here.

The RSPCA are concerned about the number of people getting puppies

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