Unprecedented spike in pet ownership under Covid lockdown causes shortages of pet food pouches

People across the UK – including Northern Ireland – have turned to pets for solace and comfort to such an extent during lockdown that the “unprecedented” rise in ownership is causing specialist food shortages.

By Philip Bradfield
Monday, 15th March 2021, 9:00 am

Clare Webster from Co Down told the News Letter that Sainsbury’s at Sprucefield hasn’t had their normal cat food for months.

“We usually buy pouches of wet food for our cats,” she said. “We can never get what we need there and there are always lots of empty shelves in the pet section.”

Sainsbury’s has apologised after running out of dog and cat food pouches due to a “national shortage”, although tinned and dry food are unaffected.

A litter of puppies recently rehomed by Almost Home animal rescue centre in Moira. The centre says demand for dogs under lockdown has risen by 100 per cent.

Morrisons, Waitrose and Tesco have also commented on the high levels of demand.

Sainsbury’s is trying to resolve the issue but warned it would be “ongoing” in 2021. It hopes to restore supplies “as quickly as possible”.

Aodhán Connolly, director of the NI Retail Consortium, said that retailers across NI have been speaking to him about the problem.

“Exceptionally high demand is putting pressure on supplies of food pouches for pets,” he said. “Retailers are working with suppliers to address and rectify the issue and will do everything they can to minimise the impact on customers.”

Aodhán Connolly, director of the NI Retail Consortium. ©Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

Karen Matthews, trustee with the Almost Home rescue centre in Moira, said they have so far escaped any shortages.

“We have pretty much always used local suppliers for everything we use so we haven’t noticed any issues,” she said.

The charity has been on the go since 2013 and takes care of a wide range of animals, including 112 dogs and about 50 cats.

But while lockdown has not caused them any food shortages they too have noticed a massive surge in demand for pets.

“We have noticed that the demand for dogs is 100 times higher than I have ever seen it,” she said.

Market prices for all dogs have shot through the roof.

“Before lockdown you could not give away Jack Russells and now they are selling for £900 each.”

However, all rescue centres are bracing themselves for an influx of dogs when lockdown ends due to separation anxiety. She recommends leaving your dog alone for several hours a day now to prepare them.

She also cautions against getting puppies for young children as they have needle sharp teeth and, while teething, will inevitably inflict painful bites on small children.

However, rescue centres have many older dogs that are perfect to be rehomed with children, she added.

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