The RSPCA has recorded a 24 per cent rise in the number of abandoned animals this year, with shelters reporting they are ‘drowning in animals’ amid the cost of living crisis.
Workers are inundated with calls from owners struggling to feed and care for their pets. Between January and July this year, the charity received 22,908 animal abandonment reports, compared to 18,375 in the same period last year, while in the first five months of 2022, 49 % more rabbits, 14% more cats and 3% more dogs were abandoned. .
A Worcestershire animal sanctuary said it was ‘absolutely stuffed with animals’ as bills soared. In July, the centre’s busiest month so far this year, total running costs came to £7,500, double its average monthly bill.
“I worked in animal rescue for 12 years and we are always busy, but this is different. It’s like our nose is right above the water and you’re like, God, this is almost too much,” said Ned Cotton, director of The Holdings rescue center in Kempsey.
“We now really see the problem of the cost of living crisis. People have to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their pets. It’s a horrible situation for a lot of people. »
The charity has seen a 9% increase in calls to its emergency helpline this year, many of them from people struggling with vet bills, and their latest investigation revealed 19% of pet owners worried about how they would afford to feed their pets.
“I get several phone calls a day from struggling members of the public and now I definitely hear money as a big factor,” Cotton said. “And it’s difficult from our point of view because sometimes we can help, but often we don’t have the space.”
He added: “There is a huge backlog, we have animals in private boarding schools waiting for places to become available in rescue centers like ours. At the moment we have two cat spaces, but they will be filled in the next few days. »
On a single day in August, the shelter took in nine abandoned cats and three rabbits.
Claire Wood, a volunteer at the centre, said: ‘Sometimes it feels like we are drowning and fighting to save, care for and relocate the endless stream of animals we see.
As abandoned animals increase, the number of people showing up for rehoming has slowed. In 2019, the association welcomed an average of 753 animals per week. That figure fell to 518 per week in 2021, and rates are still slow.
“Because of the cost of living crisis, people are going to make judgments, they are going to make calls about how their money is being spent. We noticed that repatriation slowed down in July and people are not donating either; so many people just can’t afford it anymore,” Cotton said.
The RSPCA recently launched its Undo cruelty campaign to help raise funds for deployed rescue teams rescuing animals on the front lines.
The charity is also concerned that the cost of living crisis will lead to more pets not being neutered, not microchipped and not receiving medical care when they need it.
“We’re seeing people not getting pet insurance, and we’ve seen a trend over the past few months where people haven’t been giving prompt care to their pets. We had a dog who had to have his entire ear canal removed, probably because there was a seed in it and it got progressively worse because he wasn’t being treated,” Cotton said.
His main concern was how the shelter would cope over the next few months, as energy bills were expected to climb further.
“A lot of times people think ‘how can people give up on their pets, how could someone do that? “, He said. “But often there are very genuine reasons behind it and I think with the cost of living crisis, I’m scared to think about what’s going to happen over the the next few months.”