Pet owners are fearing they won’t be able to feed their animals during the cost of living crisis. Some dog owners have also felt forced to abandon their pets.
More than 4,000 adults who responded to a survey said they found the rising cost of living is affecting their ownership and could force them to send their pets off to a rescue centre, MirrorOnline reports. The findings suggest more and more pet owners are finding themselves in a challenging financial situation in as things become more expensive.
A fifth of owners said they are worried about how they will provide for their animals as pet food prices spike, according to the RSPCA’s new Animal Kindness Index, created in partnership with the Scottish SPCA. The study showed cat owners seem to be most impacted and concerned about cost of living pressures.
Emma Slawinski, director of advocacy and policy at the RSPCA, said: “It’s great that our research has confirmed we are a nation of animal lovers, however we cannot ignore the stark suggestion that the cost of living crisis is the biggest single threat to pets in the UK today. We are on the brink of an animal welfare crisis due to the rise in pet ownership during the pandemic, coupled with the cost of living pressures biting – especially those on lower incomes.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking. We’re starting to see the knock-on effects of this as we, and other charities, predicted.
“Tragically we’re starting to see an increase in the abandonment of pets and growing numbers of cats and rabbits being rescued and coming into our care.
“It’s worrying to see that 33 per cent of pet owners have experienced issues they did not expect with their pets and, sadly, we are now seeing an increase in pets coming into our care, many because owners are struggling to afford to pay for behavioural support, vet care or even to feed their pets.
“The RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA prioritise animals most in need of neglect and cruelty and would urge any pet owners struggling to seek help to address problems at the earliest opportunity so that problems do not spiral out of control.”
The impact on Britain’s pets
The RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA are seeing an increase in rescued animals coming into their care, with many rehoming centres already full and others close to capacity:
The RSPCA is seeing a year-on-year rise in some pets coming into its care – in the first five months of 2022, the charity took in 49 per cent more rabbits, 14 per cent more cats and three per cent more dogs than the same period in 2021;
- The Scottish SPCA has seen a 12 per cent increase in the number of rabbits coming into its care and a 15 per cent increase in the number of dogs being taken in;
- RSPCA research shows that, in April 2021, there were around 4,400 searches per month online around ‘giving up pets’ and, in April 2022, this rose by 50 per cent to a high of 6,600;
- The RSPCA received 3,644 calls last year (2021) categorised as ‘help with vet bills’ – a growth of 12 per cent year-on-year;
- In the first quarter of 2022, the RSPCA experienced a nine per cent increase in calls to its emergency hotline;
- This all comes at a time when rehoming has slowed: the RSPCA rehomed an average of 753 animals per week in 2019, 565 in 2020 and 518 in 2021 meaning that spaces aren’t being freed up as quickly and animals are staying in care for longer;
- The RSPCA currently has a waiting list for all species of animals in private boarding establishments who are waiting for space in an RSPCA rehoming centre so they can begin their rehabilitation and search for a new home, while the SSPCA is close to capacity at its nine rescue centres across Scotland.
Gilly Mendes Ferreira, head of innovation and strategic relations at the Scottish SPCA, said: “The research carried out by the RSPCA as part of their Animal Kindness Index is vital for us to understand key animal welfare trends and the Scottish SPCA is proud to have played a part in development of this index.
“We have been lucky so far that we have not seen much of an impact on our services from the cost of living crisis but we are under no illusions. We know Scotland is a nation of animal lovers and people will do their best to keep their animals with them, even in the toughest of times.
“However, we fully expect to see a rise in pet owners who are unable to care for their animals or afford veterinary bills in the coming months due to rising costs. We have seen an increase in rabbits coming into our care and being abandoned.
“We are concerned that this may have been a knock-on effect from lockdown where people have taken on what they believed to be an ‘easy’ pet compared to a dog or cat and are now struggling with the reality of caring for quite a complex animal.”