There’s no denying that there has been a rise in the demand for buying and adopting dogs since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic first began.
Getting a dog may have even been a thought you’ve had yourself over the last 10 months.
After all, life as we once knew it was flipped on its head, leaving many with more time on their hands than they are usually used to.
And with this unprecedented adjustment to lifestyle, came an influx of enquiries to breeders, rescue / adoption centres, and more, by those keen to welcome a four-legged friend into their lives thanks to the newly-introduced requirement to stay at home, and it even saw Pets4Homes – one of the UK’s largest online pet marketplaces – reveal that a total of 466,601 dogs have been advertised on the site so far, with the average prices also increasing by 131%.
It also found that the demand for puppies was 51% greater than dogs aged one or older between July and September last year.
It’s these very statistics, along with several other factors which will be touched upon, that have lead a number of animal experts to recently issue a warning of an impending “major dog welfare crisis” following this sharp rise in the number of dogs being sold online.
Why is this the case?
Well, many will say it’s inevitable that when there is a recorded rise in the number of people looking to buy or adopt a dog, and then successfully doing so, that there will then be a rise in the number of dogs abandoned as a consequence – and they would be right.
The RSPCA has responded to 5,955 reports about abandoned dogs since the start of the pandemic.
And Rory Cowlam – a vet and ambassador for the RSPCA – sadly told Sky News that he expects to see the number of dogs being abandoned spike even further this year, explaining that: “Abandonments are going to happen because people have got puppies on a whim. They’ve been putting off getting a dog for years and years, they’re suddenly furloughed or they’re at home more, and they think now’s the right time to get a dog.”
Mr Cowlam also added that the rising demand has also led to worrying “increases in puppy theft and, unfortunately, increases in things like puppy farming and irresponsible breeding”.
Dr Samantha Gaines – a dog welfare specialist at the RSPCA – also devastatingly agreed that: “We’ve probably yet to see the worst to come.”
She continued: “We’re now into the third lockdown in England and people still are at home with their puppies that they bought last year, some people will be thinking about getting puppies now. If there is anyone at this moment in time that is thinking about getting a dog or a puppy because they’re at home, we’d urge people to be very very careful and to make sure they do their research.”
Dr Gaines too warned that “now is probably the greatest time ever you’d be caught out by someone”.
Ira Moss – co-founder of the dog welfare, rescue and rehoming charity All Dogs Matter – said that the online market for dogs has become a “lucrative” and “unscrupulous trade” due to a lack of regulations.
She said: “They’re being multi-sold, so one dog can turnover, can transact £5,000 to £10,000 if it’s sold three times. It’s become such a commodity, a dog. At some point, there’s got to be a saturation point – this can’t carry on forever, it’s just not practical.”
Ms Moss added: “It’s just so sad – we’re a nation of dog lovers and we’ve created this monster.”
But what is the current situation here in Greater Manchester when it comes to dog welfare, given all the worrying alerts recently raised?
Has there been a rise in the number of people looking to adopt a dog, and then a rise in subsequent abandonment figures? How are our region’s rescue centres coping amid one of the toughest global challenges in modern history? And have they noticed a shift in public attitudes?
We spoke to Emma Billington, founder and owner of Dogs 4 Rescue – an semi-rural Manchester-based independent dog sanctuary that has developed a unique “cage free” approach to animal welfare to ensure that all dogs are socialised in a healthy, relaxed and happy foster home environment, whilst waiting for their forever families – to get a grasp on the true picture.
“From our perspective, we have seen an enormous rise in the number of people looking for dogs.” Emma said.
“[We’ve had lots of] emails from people desperate to get a dog [and] the type of people have changed as well, it’s not necessarily the people looking to “rescue a dog”, but just people wanting dogs and either turning to the rescue for a cheaper dog ,or some just exhausting all avenues in what appears a desperate attempt to get any dog while they’re off.
“We’ve now got a huge waiting list of suitable homes [though] and we are no longer inundated with the people wanting to get rid of their dogs save for the ones who are really difficult, and therefore reasonably hard to rehome.
“[But this means that] the only dogs we have left are those with the most challenging behaviours needing experienced homes.
“[So] the future is bleak.”
She continued: “We have seen the rapid increase in the dog population and know the dogs who are going to be flooding rescues over the next few months are all those who were bought as a response to COVID and when people realise they no longer have time for them.
“Also there is the issue of them having separation anxiety because they have been brought up in an artificial environment where family are at home,
“But in the future, as things change, they will suffer.
“Separation anxiety is one of the hardest things to deal with and trying to find homes for those able to help these dogs is almost impossible at the best of times”.
Dogs 4 Rescue were previously at the forefront of the campaign urging Greater Manchester residents to carefully consider their situation before welcoming a dog into their lives during the first wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, insisting that “a dog is for life, not just for lockdown”.
And Emma also joins other experts in expressing her concerns over the rise in usage of the online pet marketplace.
“The only ones who have benefited from all of this is once again the breeders.” Emma continued.
“The demand and people desperate for dogs has ensured suffering on a much bigger scale than we have ever known, and [has also] driven a huge hike in the criminal activity of puppy smuggling [too].”
“The rescue world as we know it has changed for the foreseeable.
Emma admits that although it is difficult to deny that the current situation is “rather depressing” as we get underway with a new year, they are still “trying to ensure our moves are to give hope and inspire a different way of doing things”.
And they are doing an absolutely brilliant job.
To help Dogs 4 Rescue continue its essential work across Greater Manchester, please consider donating whatever you can via the website, and for large donations or offers of corporate support, you email Emma Billington at [email protected] or ring 07412361769.
The Scottish-Indian restaurant selling haggis pakoras and deep-fried Mars bars
Over in Sale’s newly redeveloped Stanley Square, you’ll find an Indian fusion restaurant serving up Scottish ingredients in some decidedly un-Scottish ways.
We’re talking haggis pakoras, Irn Bru negronis, wee puris and seven spice Scotch eggs – all served street food style in traditional metal tiffin boxes.
Opened by Ryan Singh, who hails from Edinburgh, Roti combines the best bits of his Scottish and Indian heritage by putting a spicy twist on some of Scotland’s most sacred foodstuffs.
Think deep-fried Mars bars, ‘chip butties’ in authentic rotis stuffed with curried aloo and chickpeas in aromatic pickle, and an aromatic take on mince and tatties made by combining Roti spiced pork and chole potatoes.
Elsewhere, you’ll find a decidedly fresh spin on fish and chips combining fresh Panga fish in roti gram flour batter with fluffy masala potatoes on a bed of curried ‘mushy peas’ chickpeas, and a massive Highlander burger topped with a crunchy puri ball.
Haggis – a Scottish delicacy traditionally served on Burns night – features heavily on the menu here too.
A savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (a mix of minced heart, liver and lungs) with oatmeal, onion, spices, suet, salt and stock, it’s typically served alongside neeps (better known as parsnips) on special occassions.
Down at Roti, though, it takes some decidedly different forms: shaped into burger patties and topped with coleslaw and apple chutney, or lightly coated in a spiced gram flour and fried into pakoras.
Roti first opened on Chorlton’s Barlow Moor Road in 2019, but within a few months found itself forced to close its doors and switch to takeaway only as the country went into lockdown.
After building up a loyal following of takeaway customers, the restaurant – described as ‘not your average Indian joint’ – was inspired to expand and owners moved into the newly refurbished Sale shopping precinct in 2021.
Sadly, they closed the original restaurant earlier this month but you can still find all their brilliant dishes over in Sale alongside hospitality heavy hitters like Rudy’s, Greens and Sugo Pasta Kitchen.
The 1975 ‘At Their Very Best’ in Manchester — they certainly were
On Friday, The 1975 rocked their way back up to Manchester for the homecoming gig of their ‘At Their Very Best’ tour at the AO Arena and ‘my, my, my’ did they live up to the title of the show.
Returning for the first time since 2020, the band from Wilmslow were clearly committed to putting on a memorable show for the city they grew up in and which essentially put them on the map, with Matty Healy openly admitting: “I don’t need to tell you how big this gig for us”.
It certainly felt pretty momentous for the 20,000 or so of us watching.
The calm before the storm
While a mix of ambient and classic music played before they took the stage and opener Bonnie Kemplay delighted both her die-hards and won over plenty of new ears with her soft and soothing tones, it all felt like a calm before the storm as we knew the level of performance and pageantry that was in store.
We couldn’t have been more right, as despite having fallen ill overnight and being hopped up on Lemsip — he literally spent the first few songs sipping on a cold and flu drink — you couldn’t tell, as Healy’s energy levels looked just as electric as in the now-famed London show, if not even more so.
Not only did he grow into the gig as it went on, as typified by various costume changes (mostly just taking off his shirt), the trademark shaky knees dancing, swapping Lemsip for wine and cigs, as well as his general David Bryne-like eccentricities, but the whole show felt more like an ensemble performance.
From the way his various bandmates were introduced with opening credits as they walked through the various doors on the stage and fans screamed as each of their favourites switched on a light around the beautifully set design, to how they all gathered around the mics to nail the harmonies — it felt like everyone had their moment. And there were quite a few, to say the least…
Chucking on special guests, chewing raw meat and climbing through a TV
With fans having already seen footage of them bringing out Taylor Swift on the first night in the capital, those watching The 1975 ‘At Their Very Best’ in Manchester were understandably excited to see who might appear through the door towards the back of the stage. Oh, just Charli XCX, as you do.
Honestly, the noise that echoed around the AO Arena when she appeared was deafening and though perhaps not everyone in there would usually find themselves listening to her music, even with The 1975‘s own obvious and expertly attuned pop sensibilities, her energy was unparalleled and the crowd lapped it up.
It was a similar story when Carly Holt was brought on for ‘About You’ and they played old cult-favourite ‘Menswear’ from their self-titled debut album.
That being said, it was nothing compared to the slightly maniacal crescendo that closed out of the opening half of the show before she stepped out, as Matty punctuated the songs from Being Funny in a Foreign Language and the more easy-going tracks with a typically meta albeit bizarre interlude.
The frenetic frontman has always been self-referential but he was at self-indulgent best on Friday, as in one fell swoop he went from unbuttoning his shirt and sensually caressing his body whilst smoking on stage, to getting on his knees, eating a raw piece of steak and doing a bunch of press-ups. At one point you could literally see him mouth, “what the f*** am I doing!?”
We have absolutely no idea, Matty. We thought it was surreal enough when he started eating a sausage roll after a fan chucked it on stage, but that was nothing compared to him staring down a camera as he climbed through a TV and disappeared out the back of the set.
We assumed it had some kind of consumerist, fourth-wall-breaking message about being sucked in by media and whatnot, but who knows? It could just be the ever-artsy musician having a bit of mind-bending fun; it gave us trippy Trainspotting vibes and was unlike any other live gig we’d ever seen.
Doing what they do best: putting on a proper show
With the new album and the majority of surprises behind them, the band then kicked things into fifth gear and started playing countless bangers throughout their now more than decade-long studio discography as they steamed towards the final act of their 25-track epic.
Part of the reason this latest record has gone down so well with fans new and old is that it’s much more succinct and simpler than the previous two; back to basics sounds reductive but it was about stripping away a lot of the frills and just writing good songs — the second half of the show very much embodied that ethos.
Matty’s often unhinged, ‘dancing with abandon’ and intoxicated persona on stage is never going to go anywhere, but it didn’t look like he needed anything other than the audience to fuel the performance. They fed off him and he fed off them, as was perfectly epitomised when they dropped ‘The Sound’.
Closing the door and looking towards a new chapter
More poignantly, after the now infamous antics earlier in the show that have now become part of the narrative for this tour, there wasn’t any more self-indulgence. There were no speeches about politics or art, kissing people on stage or sucking thumbs. There was simply no need for it.
There was only pure crowd-pleasing, Matty showing his appreciation for his bandmates and celebrating everything that the band is about at this moment in time, even if that is partly playing the hits and things like doing the ‘don’t like methols’ meme.
I mean, he couldn’t not do it for us, could he?
Last but not least, the set dressing was typically creative from The 1975’s production team as a whole and played a key role throughout, but it was until the end of the show that it hit home how important it was to the whole performance.
The doors dotted all over the stage weren’t just a nice nod to the iconic box logo that the band is known for. After it was illuminated and Matty passed through it for the final time, shutting it behind him and the credits once again rolling for the band, the metaphor hit you like a train: it signified the end of an era.
By walking through it on his way off the stage, it symbolised the band closing the door on the Music For Cars era that has encapsulated their last five albums and more than 21 years of their life as a band, with the last action of Matty going to turn the stage lights as if to ram home that final moment of closure.
Who knows what the next chapter will hold for The 1975? All we know is that we have loved the journey so far and you can sign us up for as many of those gigs as they’re willing to give us.