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Britain on ‘brink of animal welfare crisis’ as owners unable to afford pet food

A new Animal Kindness Index, compiled by the RSPCA, has revealed t he cost of living crisis is the most urgent threat to pet welfare – and will likely impact how owners care for their pets

A fifth of dog owners are worried about how they’ll afford to feed their pet, according to the RSPCA’s Animal Kindness Index

Hard up dog owners are having to abandon their pets due to the cost of living crisis – while others fear they can’t afford to feed them.

Shocking new statistics highlight the tough situation more and more pet owners are finding themselves in as things become more expensive.

A survey of more than 4,000 adults found the rising cost of living is affecting their ownership and could force them to send their pets off to a rescue centre.

According to the RSPCA’s new Animal Kindness Index, created in partnership with the Scottish SPCA, a fifth of owners are worried about how they will provide for their animals as pet food prices spike.

The study showed cat owners seem to be most impacted and concerned about cost of living pressures.

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Owners might have to make changes to how they care for their pets as the cost of living crisis continues


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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 behavioral support, vet care or even to feed their pets.

“The RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA prioritize 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.”

Cat owners appear to be the most concerned about cost of living pressures


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The real 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 centers 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) categorized as ‘help with vet bills’ – a growth of 12 per cent year-on-year;

  • In the first quarter of 20220, 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 center so they can begin their rehabilitation and search for a new home, while the SSPCA is close to capacity at its nine rescue centers 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.

“A key part of our 10-year strategy is to reduce unintentional cruelty by 50 per cent by 2032.

“We can only do this by working with partners like the RSPCA to understand the issues impacting pet owners across Scotland and finding ways to support them.”

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