AWF presents at BVA Council

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This morning at BVA Council, AWF Chair of Trustees Julian Kupfer presented one of the most innovative and significant research projects funded by AWF. The research project, called “Pandemic Puppies” was carried out in the height of lockdown by Dr Rowena Packer and explored motivations and behaviours of UK owners acquiring puppies during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.
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In 2020, AWF put out a research call looking for short, desk-based research projects that could safely be carried out during this time and that would look at the welfare issues emerging from the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. We received 38 applications, one of which received AWF funding.
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Rowena Packer's study focused on puppy buying in the UK during this challenging time, how it differed from a pre-pandemic world and the impact on the welfare of thousands of puppies and now adult, dogs.
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Between 23rd March and 31 December 2020, a higher than usual number of the public sought or purchased a puppy. With more perceived free time to care for an animal (two fifths of ‘pandemic puppy’ owners felt the pandemic influenced their decision to purchase a puppy, most commonly due to “having more time to care for a dog”), as well as the mental health benefits associated with animal companionship, it seemed like the perfect time to add a four-legged friend to the family. However, this raised many concerns for canine welfare:
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  • This created the perfect environment for unscrupulous breeders cashing in on a sky-high demand;
  • In line with our normal consuming process, puppies were more likely to be purchased online as an impulse buy
  • Due to the restrictions imposed, newly acquired puppies were less likely to have attended in-person puppy classes or had visitors to their home under the age of 16 weeks, missing out on the crucial socialisation/habituation stage of their development.
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The findings of Rowena's research have enabled an evidence-based approach to support this vulnerable population of puppies, their owners (40% of ‘pandemic puppy’ owners having no previous dog ownership experience) and the professionals and rescue organisations who might be involved in their care in the future.
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But that was only the start – Rowena’s research led to significant knowledge exchange on the topic as she presented the findings of her research at many major congresses and conferences in the UK and across the world.
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This project also influenced BVA’s policies and work on puppy farming, canine breeding services and brachycephalic dogs.
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Finally, and perhaps more importantly, the AWF funded project was a catalyst for further studies and led to over £200,000 of funding for follow up projects such as:Miss Gina Bryson: MRes 2022-2023 (Passed with Distinction): Exploring the long-term welfare consequences of designer crossbreed dog acquisitions in the UK (co-supervised with Dr Dan O'Neill, funded by Kennel Club Charitable Trust)
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All of this thanks to…you! As a charity, we rely solely on donations to carry out our work so thank you so much for your support.