Leading charities say demand for their services is continuing to soar, amid fears pets could end up being abandoned or euthanised on a scale not seen since the Second World War.
The RSPCA has revealed its officers are dealing with 25% more abandonments year on year, while Cats Protection and Dogs Trust said their caseloads are also at record levels.
Thousands of people have now signed an online petition calling for the Government to set up an animal welfare crisis fund to help meet the current economic challenges.
Set up by campaigner and author Dominic Dyer, it urges ministers to work with charities and the veterinary sector to set up a national pet food bank network, and provide free care for the pets of homeless people.
It also demands increased kennel and care support, greater mental health support for veterinary professionals, and increased help for local councils to deal with strays.
Cost of living
The petition argues: “We face a companion animal welfare crisis of unprecedented proportions as a result of the cost of living crisis.
“Without Government intervention, millions of dogs and cats could be at risk of being abandoned or euthanised on economic grounds, on a scale not seen since the pet cull at the start of [the Second World War].”
Although the UK’s rate of inflation fell slightly in December, welfare organisations are not expecting the crisis to ease soon.
The RSPCA said its latest Animal Kindness Index research found more than two-thirds (68%) of pet owners were worried about rising care costs and nearly one in five (19%) were concerned about whether they could afford to feed their pets.
The organisation has set aside £1.5 million in additional funding for schemes including pet food banks, and help for both owners and smaller charities.
But it conceded that the crisis had already impacted their frontline and has appealed for supporters who are able to do so to help its winter rescue appeal.
David Bowles, the group’s head of public affairs, said: “We’ve already seen animal intake rise by 8%, while rehoming has slowed by 8% – so our centres are full to bursting at the moment; unfortunately, we fear the problem is going to get worse.
“Abandonment incidents dealt with by our rescuers are also up 25%, and we fear that is a direct consequence of cost of living pressures.”
Dogs Trust has already set up pet food banks at six of its rehoming centres across the UK, and has called for the temporary abolition of VAT on both pet food and vet bills to help owners.
A spokesperson said: “This petition highlights important issues dog owners are facing, including areas that Dogs Trust is currently working on, such as food banks and support for dog owners experiencing homelessness.”
The group said demand for its services is at an all-time high, with handover requests in 2022 topping 50,000 for the first time. It has also launched a new campaign pleading for owners to seek help before they reach crisis point.
Cats Protection has also warned of an unprecedented scale of need, with waiting lists for places in its 34 adoption centres up by 45% last year compared to 2021, and an 18% rise in the number of cats classed as “abandoned by owner”.
Having issued an urgent appeal for adopters to come forward last summer, following a 46% rise in year-on-year figures for just a single month, the organisation said its waiting lists are already up by 22% so far this year with a similar jump in handover requests.
Head of field operations Peter Shergold said: “This is the worst situation in organisational memory in terms of the pressure on our services to take in cats.
“A 46% increase in demand on our waiting lists is well above our historical average and looks likely to continue for the near future.
“The rise is directly linked to the cost of living crisis, such as not having the funds to afford the basics like cat food or cat litter, or a much more serious consequence, such as a loss of a job or having to move into rented accommodation where pets aren’t allowed.”
Credit to: Animal charities warning of unprecedented help demand (Vet Times)
Vet Times. (2023). Animal charities warning of unprecedented help demand [online]
Available at: https://www.vettimes.co.uk/news/animal-charities-warning-of-unprecedented-help-demand/
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