Clwyd West MS Darren Millar is calling on the Welsh Government to respond to calls for it to review and determine the impact Covid-19 has had on animal welfare in Wales.

Leading pet charity, Blue Cross, has published research which highlights that despite interest in pet ownership increasing over lockdown, the crisis has had a negative effect on the welfare of pets in Wales.

These include: Financial pressures on pet owners leading to a spike in abandonment; Delayed veterinary treatments, such as vaccinations, leading to outbreaks of disease; Irresponsible breeding, online sales and transfers of pets from within the UK, and illegally imported puppies; Closure of centres and sanctuaries as the loss of revenue takes effect means no support for pets in need.

Head of Public Affairs, Becky Thwaites, said: “Caring for a pet has been seen by many as an option for helping to cope with the pandemic. We have seen a rise in pet ownership across Wales which has brought about immediate challenges to Welsh Government, animal welfare charities, vets and breeders.

“We are concerned that many responsible breeders have not been producing and selling litters during lockdown, due to the inability to breed safely and within government guidelines.

"This has provided a real opportunity for irresponsible breeders and sellers to take advantage, listing pets for sale and delivering them to homes or pick up points where buyers have not been able to see the mum or assess the health of their new puppy.

"We therefore urge Welsh Government to review and determine the impact COVID -19 has had on animal welfare in Wales - including on puppy farming, smuggling and unlawful selling of puppies and kittens, and to ensure enforcement agencies are equipped to respond.

“We are also concerned that at a time when less rehoming can take place, and while demand is so high, many animals are being bought online without owners necessarily considering long term costs or commitments.”

North Wales Pioneer: Clwyd West MS Darren MillarClwyd West MS Darren Millar

In addition to the concerns about an increase in irresponsible breeding, Blue Cross research also highlights a reduction in pet owners accessing veterinary service, which could have long term impact on pet welfare. Microchipping figures in Wales are down 80% this year so far, and as routine vaccinations in the Blue Cross Cwmbran clinic are down 82% this year.

Head of Veterinary Services, Alison Thomas, added:

“Covid- 19 has created many problems for animal welfare, but we will not be able to see the long-term impact immediately. There are significant concerns about the number of vaccinations and neutering procedures that were delayed during lockdown. As the number of unvaccinated animals in the population rise, we may see outbreaks of fatal diseases such as parvovirus. A spike in unwanted pregnancies is also a very real threat for animal charities who already have stretched resources.”

Mr Millar said: “These findings are extremely concerning and demand immediate attention. Whilst we have rightly been very much focused on the impact of Covid-19 on people, we should not overlook the negative repercussions of the pandemic on animal welfare.

“The report, which included recommendations for Welsh Government and other stakeholders, highlights that Wales could face crisis in areas of pet welfare if warning signs are not addressed early. It is therefore crucial that Ministers look in detail at this report and take the action necessary to protect our animals.”

The full report and range of recommendations can be read here: