Taking your dog for a walk or going to buy dog food was something we all took for granted until the stark reality of the Coronavirus hit. And it’s about to hit even harder when as per government estimates, 1.5 million elderly and vulnerable people go into lockdown for the next 12 weeks. At the thought of having to practice extreme self-isolation for such a long period, my first thought is how would I look after my dogs. So I can only imagine how an elderly person with pets must feel, especially if they can’t afford the services of a dog walker. Fortunately, across the UK communities are coming together and in this post I’ll be talking about the ‘Support Groups for Dog Owners in Self-Isolation‘ that are springing up for dog owners in London and the UK, so that people can access support if they need to.
We’ve seen lots of offers of help in the many local Covid-19 Support Groups (see later in this post for details of these groups), offering to help vulnerable people with food shopping or dog walking, but sadly we’ve also seen reports in the media of unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of the vulnerable during this time. Whilst this is incomprehensible to most people, sadly the fact that this can happen remains. So when I heard about specific Support Groups for Dog Owners in Self-isolation being set up, I wanted to help spread the word – especially about the groups that are making an effort to safeguard the vulnerable.
Without further ado, here are the groups I know of so far, including details of their initiatives and policies in place….
Underdog Unity Neighbourhood Volunteers
The initiative: Underdog International is a registered animal-assisted therapy and dog rescue charity based in London with a mission to positively impact one million children and dogs by 2025.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Underdog has set up Underdog Unity Neighbourhood Volunteers – a network of volunteers in London and across the UK to help dog owners isolated by the Covid-19 outbreak. Underdog International founder Nadine Kayser said the charity is keen to build up as big a pool of potential volunteers as possible so they can help as many people as possible as the requests come in.
The kind of help available: Walking dogs, buying dog-food and supplies, taking dogs to the vet or even temporary foster care for your dog if needed.
Areas covered: UK wide
What you need to know: All Underdog Unity Neighbourhood Volunteers will go through the same vetting process as the charity’s therapy dog volunteers i.e. they will be interviewed, ID-checked and insured by the Charity as well as have to sign a volunteering contract. Of the support groups we have seen so far specifically for dog-owners, this is the most regulated and I would definitely encourage people to sign up as an Underdog Unity Neighbourhood Volunteer (I have).
How you can help: Register now to become an Underdog Unity Neighbourhood Volunteer so that the charity has a large pool of people to call upon when people need help. Or you can notify Underdog of someone in need of assistance via this link.
Sighthound Sundays Covid-19 Dog Aid
The initiative: Sighthound Sundays is a well-respected London Dog Community Group with a focus on, you guessed it, Sighthounds. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, the Sighthound Sundays Group held a regular monthly meetup in Victoria Park with many regular and loyal attendees. Responding to the Covid-19 situation, Sighthound Sundays have set up a peer to peer community support Group on WhatsApp: Covid-19 Dog Aid which you can join via the Sighthound Sundays Facebook Group.
The kind of help available: The group will try to match a volunteer with the assistance your dog needs; dog walking and buying dog-food/supplies expected to be the most common.
Areas covered: Hackney, London
What you need to know: Although a volunteer-led community group, Sighthound Sundays are running a ‘vouch for’ process to ensure genuine volunteers only. As well as having sanitization guidelines in place, volunteers are also asked to location share their walks with owners so that owners can join on a virtual walk.
How you can help: Join the group to become a volunteer or area coordinator. The focus is on Hackney in East London at the moment as that is where the Sighthound Sundays community is primarily based / where the current area co-ordinators are.
Join the Sighthound Sundays Facebook / WhatsApp Group here to become a volunteer or to post a request for help for someone in need.
Coronavirus Helping Hands Hertfordshire & London
The initiative: A group of volunteers based in London and Hertfordshire who are offering their support for those isolated, especially the elderly and infirm. Find them on the Corona Virus Helping Hands Facebook Page.
The kind of help available: Shopping, dog walking, picking up medication and hand sanitiser for free (as they are making their own). They are also available for a friendly chat via phone or video.
Areas covered: London & Hertfordshire
What you need to know: The Coronavirus Helping Hands Facebook Page states that the group members are DBS checked.
How you can help: Let the group know of any people in need of assistance or get in touch to see how you can help.
Support Group for UK Dog Owners in Self-Isolation Facebook Group
The initiative: A Facebook Support Group for UK Dog Owners in Self-isolation which you can join here Support Group for UK Dog Owners in Self-Isolation.
The kind of help available: Any kind of support that someone can offer, although naturally walking dogs is the most offered assistance. I’ve also seen dog walker businesses in the group who are kindly offering their services to vulnerable people in need.
Areas covered: Although the group is still small, the aim is to be able to offer peer to peer support UK wide.
What you need to know: This group is managed by the Group Admin who took the time to set up the group. I haven’t seen any formal group safeguarding polices, but I was encouraged to see some people saying if they were DBS checked when offering their time.
How you can help: Join the group here to help it grow and see where you can offer assistance.
Local Mutual Aid Covid-19 Support Groups
Covid Mutual Aid UK is an umbrella volunteer group supporting local community groups who are organising mutual aid throughout the UK. The focus of this group is providing information about resources available and connecting people to their nearest local groups, either to volunteer or for those in need to get help. Covid Mutual Aid UK says there are already over a thousand groups listed on their site across the UK and for London, most boroughs have a group. If there isn’t a group already listed for your area, willing volunteers can set one up and add it to the list.
Covid Mutal Aid UK also has a useful page with lots of resources on how to set up and manage an effective support group, including guidance on safeguarding.
The local support groups listed aren’t specifically aimed at dog owners, but in my local London group, I have seen many offers of dog-walking assistance. However, safeguarding policies will be specific to each group if they exist, so please do check if you join and if they don’t exist, perhaps suggest some.
LONDON DOG FACEBOOK GROUPS BY AREA
Useful resources for London dog owners in different areas are the established area-specific Dog Community Facebook Groups.
Although these groups are not specifically for co-ordinating Coronavirus support (they are normally used for local recommendations), they are now naturally lending themselves to sharing offers of support on an informal basis. Here’s our list of go-to London Dog Groups by area…
NORTH LONDON DOG GROUPS
SOUTH LONDON DOG GROUPS
- South London Dogs
- Common Dog (Clapham area)
- Wimbledon Common Dog Community
- Dogs in Kennington Park
- Southwark Loves Dogs
- Battersea Park Pooches
- Wandsworth Common Dogs
- Dogs in Brockwell Park
- Mayow’s Mutts (Sydenham, Mayow Park areas)
- Dogs of SE4 and surrounding
- Morden Hall Park Dog Walkers Group
- Beckenham Palace Park Dogs
EAST LONDON DOG GROUPS
WEST LONDON DOG GROUPS
It’s fantastic to see communities coming together like this in these unprecedented times and we truly hope that these groups will be able to help vulnerable pet owners across the UK so they don’t worry about their four-legged best friends at this difficult time.
However, as with everything right now, please make sure these support groups are available to those who really need them – if you have a dog walker or use a daycare service and the business has put in place social distancing measures/you can afford to use them, please continue to do so to help these small businesses stay afloat.
I’ll continue to update this post with any additional groups as I learn about them so if you know of any support groups for dog owners in self-isolation that should be included on this list, please leave a comment below or get in touch.