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  • Melinda Murphy

Virtual doggy dates

John Waters and his wife Lois are delighted that they have been able to overcome the restrictions of Britain’s coronavirus lockdown and adopt a new pet with the help of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London and some videoconferencing.

Shadow, a 6-1/2 year-old Siberian husky, had been living with a foster family in Kent, southeast England, close to one of three shelters run by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

“There was a big hole in our life when our previous dog passed away,” John Waters told Reuters in an interview.

“Shadow... has given us a more positive outlook, where we can go out as a family ... and to help a rescue (animal) is very rewarding for both of us,” he said.

After registering their interest online in adopting a dog, they took part in a series of calls, including one video call where they “met” Shadow online, and the dog soon joined its new family in Leicester, central England.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home had to close to the general public in March because of the lockdown, and has also had to sharply reduce the number of animals it takes in.

But it has continued the process of trying to rehouse hundreds of dogs and cats in its care, like Shadow, with the help of video calls.

While Shadow’s is a happy story, however, the outlook for Britain’s animal welfare charities looks bleak.

“We estimate that these organisations are going to suffer a 50 percent loss in revenue (due to the coronavirus lockdown),” said Steven Craddock, Battersea’s manager.

Entirely reliant on public donations, Battersea expects to suffer an 11 million pound loss over the next 18 months, he said, making it harder to continue rescuing, caring for and re-homing abandoned or stray animals.

“So if a number of rescue (centres) close across the UK, animals in need of help are going to be left with nowhere to go,” he said.

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