ANIMAL rescue groups in the Bradford district have said that they are expecting to see an increase in abandoned pets due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Yorkshire Animal Welfare Society fears that, with many people being out of work due to the outbreak, some pet owners may not have enough money to feed and take care of their cats and dogs, which could lead to pets being abandoned.

Bradford Cat Watch Rescue expressed similar concerns, although both organisations have offered to help pet owners during this time of uncertainty.

There has also been anxiety over how the spread of “misinformation” could create fear over animals and the virus, which may also lead to abandonment.

But, this morning, the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) issued a statement reassuring the public that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted from domestic animals to humans, despite the fears that some may have.

The South African animal welfare organisation said, in the statement, that, “It has come to the attention of the NSPCA that certain entities are spreading misinformation regarding animals and the COVID-19 virus.

“The NSPCA would like to assure the public that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted from domestic animals to humans.

“It is unclear whether or not this virus is transmittable from wild animals to humans, and therefore we continue to strongly discourage interactions with wild animals - not only for ethical reasons, but now for health reasons too.

“The NSPCA cautions the public to not rely on the news spread by entities that are not directly involved in the study of the COVID-19 virus.

“It has come to light that misinformation relating to the COVID-19 virus is being circulated implying that domestic animals are the source of transmission - this is simply not true.

“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks.”

The NSPCA also encouraged people to, in the worst case scenario, take their pets to their local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) instead of abandoning them.

“If you cannot afford to take care of your pet, you should surrender it to your local SPCA as opposed to abandoning, dumping, or discarding it.

“We also remind the public that while they are taking care of themselves, to remember their animals (domestic, farm, captive wild animals) at this time too, to ensure that there is adequate provision of the necessary resources for survival. “

John Greaves, of Queensbury-based Yorkshire Animal Welfare Society, said he is worried about how the virus may affect pet owners in Bradford.

“It’s still quite early on during this outbreak, but we feel like an increase in pets being abandoned is going to happen.

“A lot of people will be losing their jobs due to the virus - they won’t be able to afford to feed their pets. With lockdown seeming inevitable, we’re going to find an increase in abandoned animals - not just cats and dogs, but horses, chickens and farm animals, too.

“We’ve not seen an increase yet, but we are expecting to, later down the line. It’s all very worrying, we’ve had no chance to react because of how quick this outbreak has come on.

“We’re setting up a programme where we will be dropping off pet food for those who need help - they can give us a call on 07999976403 if they would like more information.

Katie Lloyd, of Bradford Cat Watch Rescue, based in the Bolton Road area, said, “We've been getting a lot of enquiries about whether or not cats can transmit coronavirus to humans.

“People are asking if we can take their cats in, if they suffer from asthma or any other respiratory problem. They’re concerned that animals can contribute to their respiratory problems and cause coronavirus - but this is not the case, there’s no evidence that animals can transmit it to humans.

“We fear people may abandon their cats due to this lack of information, but also if they lose their jobs and become financially unstable - which is a very valid concern - some people won’t be able to feed both their cat and their kids.

“We had to take the sensible and only option to close to our visitors. We can’t do adoptions or admissions right now, and coronavirus is having a massive impact on us.

“If people are struggling to access or afford cat food, we have a very small arm of our rescue centre called Topple’s Trust, which gives out free pet food parcels. Its purpose is to preserve the relationships between owners and their cats in this period of adversity.

“People can contact us on 07942822509 if they would like more information.”