Animal charities in England can start rehoming pets in their care again after new guidelines for doing so safely during coronavirus were approved by the government.
When the government introduced lockdown, animal shelters were closed to the public, although staff and volunteers could continue to look after animals already in their care.
RSPCA also continued to provide emergency rescue services. But many rehoming and fostering programmes were suspended.
Defra has now approved new guidelines from the Canine and Feline Sector Group, a membership body for animal welfare charities, which address how to rehome animals during the crisis.
This morning RSPCA announced that it would begin rehoming dogs, cats and small pets this week.
Spike in interest
RSPCA is looking after 4,800 animals and will restart its rehoming and fostering schemes in England this week.
Most of the process will now be done virtually, and animal transfers will be completed while observing social distancing.
Since the start of the crisis, RSPCA has seen web traffic to its rehoming pages increase almost 30%, and its foster pages have seen a 600% increase in interest.
Between 1 March and 19 April, the Find a Pet section of RSPCA’s website received 1,070,925 unique views, compared to 834,456 in the same period of the previous year. Its fostering page had 115,892 unique visits in the same period compared to 17,545 in 2019.
Chris Sherwood said: “We have continued to rescue and take in animals in need through this crisis, and our frontline staff in our animal centres have done a sterling job in really tough circumstances, giving them the care and love that they need.
“But nothing can replace the care that a pet receives in a loving home, so we are thrilled that we are going to be able to start finding them the families they desperately need right across England.
“Safety of the public, our staff and, of course, the animals is our highest priority, and we have developed guidelines to ensure that we can rehome, foster and provide ongoing support for adopters and fosterers in a safe way. This means our animal centres will remain closed to the public and we have developed a number of measures to make sure we can maintain social distancing while finding animals new homes.”
The new, temporary RSPCA rehoming and fostering process will involve:
- Finding an animal on the RSPCA’s Find A Pet webpage, completing a Perfect Match form and emailing it to the rehoming centre.
- All adopters or fosterers must live within about an hour’s drive of the centre where the animal is being cared for.
- All discussions will take place via phone or video call.
- Adopters and fosterers will get to virtually meet their potential pet, with videos sent to show them their behaviour and give them a deeper understanding of their pet’s personality.
- Home visits will be conducted virtually, through photos or video walk-through.
- All pets will be transported to their new homes and handovers will observe social distancing
The charity warned that due to the current crisis, some rehoming centres have limited staff available to take calls and emails, so may take longer to respond to enquiries.