Dr’s Rowena Packer, Dan O’Neill and Claire Brand of RVC have been awarded one of the first newly launched Research Grants from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to further study the Pandemic Puppy phenomenon in the UK.
In November 2020 the RVC ‘Pandemic Puppies’ team launched a UK-wide study to investigate widespread reports of a surge in puppy purchasing the 2020 phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Funded by the Animal Welfare Foundation, this study recruited over 6500 UK puppy owners who bought a puppy home under the age of 16 weeks in either 2019 or 2020. This study, now published in a peer-reviewed journal, demonstrated how puppy buying changed during the Pandemic, and highlighted how these changes posed threats to the future welfare of this unique population. Data collected on the early life experiences of Pandemic Puppies further suggested that the socialisation experiences many lacked due to the Pandemic’s restrictions may negatively impact their future behaviour and welfare.
This new funding from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home will allow the team to follow-up the original cohort of Pandemic Puppies as they reach adulthood via a series of longitudinal surveys exploring their health, behaviour and welfare. In addition, aspects of the dog-owner bond and the impact of COVID-19 on dog and owner lifestyles will be examined to better understand potential relinquishment risks for this population.
It is hoped that this study will provide an evidence-base to better inform the veterinary and animal care sectors of current and potential problems arising in this vulnerable population, so that dogs and owners can be better supported to mitigate or prevent these harms.