The acting manager of an Ottery-based animal charity said he is expecting an increase in the amount of dogs dropped off on its doorstep once the Covid-19 pandemic has ended.

Guy Scott, of ARC Animal Sanctuary, said if the county is affected badly by the killer virus, dozens of deaths could result in dogs without homes.

The charity has been affected by the pandemic – three staff have been furloughed.

Mr Scott, who worked 26 days in a row due to pressures imposed by the pandemic, said: “It all depends how the pandemic affects this area.

“If a lot of people get ill, there will be probably be an increase in the amount of people unable to look after their pets.

“When people have been at home with their animals, it could put a strain on people’s mental health and as a result, relationships will suffer.”

Mr Scott said couple who own a dog together but aren’t married could break up due to the pressures on their relationship, caused by the pandemic.

This could see the dog returned to a kennel environment should neither party not have the means to care for the animal.

At present, ARC has ten dogs in its care while it is closed to the public.

One dog, a young collie, was handed into the charity by an elderly couple who knew they would not be able to look after it throughout the lockdown.

Mr Scott said: “We are facing unprecedented challenges. We can not do any rehoming, which is a big income for us.

“We can only care for the dogs we have at the moment. We have had an increase in requests from people who want to foster, but they came after the pandemic started and we had to close.

“It is also likely that those dogs will be brought back the kennel when the restrictions are lifted, and people go back to work and resume their lives.

“This is not good for the dog’s mental health, as they thought they had a loving home for life, and then are put back into the kennel environment, so we have to be mindful of that.”

Mr Scott said people should play mental games with their dogs during the lockdown, such as hiding toys under buckets and encouraging them to find it.

He also urged owners to take the on a daily walk, keeping a sensible distance from other people out and about.