Cost of living crisis leads to rise in pets being abandoned

SOARING bills due to the cost of living crisis may have led to a rise in the number of pets being abandoned, animal charities have warned.

Both Hope Rescue and RSPCA Cymru have reported rises in the number of owners who have abandoned their pets over the past few months.

Hope Rescue takes in stray dogs from six local authority areas – including Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent.

Sara Rosser, from charity, said it was currently experiencing its busiest period since it launched in 2005.

South Wales Argus: Hope Rescue currently has more than double its usual number of dogs in its care.  Picture: Hope Rescue.Hope Rescue currently has more than double its usual number of dogs in its care. Picture: Hope Rescue.

The matter has only been compounded by a rise in ‘fake strays’ – where owners bring their dogs in to the rescue center claiming to have found them as a stray.

“Usually we have around 100 dogs in our care but we currently have 221,” she said.

“The issue is compounded because many of these dogs aren’t yet ready for adoption – they have either been seized from illegal breeders and awaiting court dates or have medical or behavioral issues which we are currently working on.

“We have seen far more dogs coming into us with complex medical or behavioral needs since the pandemic and more ‘fake strays’.

“This month only just over 30 per cent of the dogs bought into us as strays have been claimed by owners. The majority of those not claimed we have found evidence that they are actually a ‘fake stray’.”

And RSPCA Cymru reported a 29 per cent increase in abandonments over the winter, while in the first four months of 2022, the charity has taken in 79 per cent more rabbits and 18 per cent more cats compared to that period in 2021.

“Across the sector, we are seeing an increase in the number of animals being abandoned as well as being surrendered,” said an RSPCA Cymru spokesperson. “We fear this could worsen as people continue to return to the office or struggle with increasing costs of living.

“Many people simply don’t realize how expensive and time-consuming it can be to take care of a pet.

South Wales Argus: RSPCA Cymru is expecting to see the levels of pet abandonments worsen in the upcoming months.  Picture: RSPCA Cymru.RSPCA Cymru is expecting to see the levels of pet abandonments worsen in the upcoming months. Picture: RSPCA Cymru.

“Pets need food, vet care, insurance, toys and specialist equipment, while some may also need behavior support and training.

“However, in some cases, and as we have seen with the pandemic, some people have unexpectedly found themselves in very difficult financial circumstances and have had no choice but to give up their pet.”

The charities warned of the potential impact of rising costs – both in paying the bills themselves and a with a potential drop in donations as donors are forced to tighten their belts.

South Wales Argus: Hope Rescue's vet bills last month were more than double the average figure.  Picture: Hope Rescue.Hope Rescue’s vet bills last month were more than double the average figure. Picture: Hope Rescue.

“The impact of the cost of living crisis is affecting us at the center too,” said Ms Rosser. “We expect our utilities to be 30 to 40 per cent more than the same period last year.

“Our vet bills average at £20,000 a month, but our last month’s bill was over £40,000 due to the number of unwell dogs we are caring for currently.

“We do predict an impact on our donations too as people have to prioritize their finances.”

“Like everyone the RSPCA is concerned about the impact of rising costs,” said the RSPCA Cymru spokesperson. “As a charity we rely on public donations and it is only through the kindness and generosity of members of the public that we can continue our vital animal welfare work day in day out.

“The rising costs that we are all facing through things like utility bills and petrol will impact us directly at our animal centers and veterinary clinics.

“But also it will cost more to keep our frontline rescuers on the road who travel across Wales to rescue animals from suffering, neglect and danger.”

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The charities have issued advice for pet owners who’s financial circumstances may have changed as a result of the cost of living crisis.

“We are seeing more owners asking to surrender their dog due to financial difficulties or change of circumstances,” said Ms Rosser.

“If owners are struggling financially there are a number of food banks who will help with pet food.

“Locally, we have pet food bank services who are fantastic and who we try to support by providing surplus food that we may not use at the rescue center when we have it.

“Owners can also contact PDSA, Blue Cross and RSPCA who in some circumstances may be able to offer subsidized vet care for those who qualify.”

South Wales Argus: RSPCA Cymru has warned that rising costs could affect its animal centers and veterinary clinics, as well as its frontline rescuers on the roads.  Picture: RSPCA Cymru.RSPCA Cymru has warned that rising costs could affect its animal centers and veterinary clinics, as well as its frontline rescuers on the roads. Picture: RSPCA Cymru.

The RSPCA Cymru spokesperson said: “We would always urge anyone considering taking on a pet to do their research first and should always consider rescuing instead of buying.

“For those who may be struggling as a result of the pandemic, please do seek help from a reputable rescue charity as we are all here to help.

”There is a lot of practical advice on our website and there are many fabulous organizations who can offer support.”

To find out more about Hope Rescue, or to donate, visit hoperescue.org.uk.

And more information about RSPCA Cymru, including how to donate, can be found at rspca.org.uk.

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