As the cost of living continues to rise and people tighten their belts even further, many pet owners are having to make some heart-breaking decisions. With more pets being signed over to charities such as the RSPCA and pet food banks opening across the country to help owners who are struggling, how many pets are being robbed of a loving family by the cost-of-living crisis?
The cost of living has risen dramatically over the last year, with consumer prices 10.1% higher in January of this year than a year before. Food, fuel and most notably, energy costs have also increased with domestic gas prices up by 129% and electricity prices up by 67% in the last year. So how has this been affecting pet owners?
A growing problem
Over the last couple of months, we’ve seen a steady increase in reports on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on pet owners. Just this week, it’s also been reported that up to four million pet owners are cutting back on their weekly food shop to ensure they can afford their animals.
Last year, Dogs Trust received more enquiries about giving up a dog than ever before. Their research found that almost half of dog owners said they thought they would find it more difficult to give their dog everything they needed compared to before the cost-of-living crisis, citing concerns around vets bills, increasing food costs and pet insurance. Perhaps more concerningly, 61% of non dog owners said the rising cost of living would put them off buying or adopting a dog.
A report from earlier this year found that one in ten pet owners were thinking of giving up their pets due to the cost-of-living crisis, one in five were already getting into debt to pay for their pets’ care and a quarter said they won’t take their pets to the vet due to the cost. The research also reported 60% of rescue centres had seen a decrease in pets being rehomed last year, with 42% of centres being completely full.
The view from the inside
The findings of this report were echoed by a member of staff that I spoke to at a local rescue centre. She confirmed that they had seen an increase in people giving up their pets as a direct result of the cost of living, with many struggling to pay for food and vet bills.
“The number of animals needing help is far exceeding the number of rescue spaces available… we’re operating on a one in one out basis and our waiting list is growing longer, we simply don’t have the space.”
She also reiterated the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on adoption rates, adding:
“Adoption rates are decreasing as people can’t afford to take on a new pet, so animals are spending longer in rescue waiting for homes and we aren’t able to make space for others.”
She concluded by saying that anyone looking to take on a pet should always remember the costs that come with owning an animal, but that if it’s within their means, people should always consider adoption:
“Adoption costs are often lower than buying from a breeder and you would be freeing up much-needed space for an animal who needs help.”
Where to give and receive help
There are lots of charities and organisations that can help pet owners who are struggling so they can avoid having to give up their pets. Even if you’re not a pet owner, any donations of money, food/bedding or even your time would be invaluable to help charities look after animals in their care and pet owners seeking support.
Here are just a few:
- RSPCA – Advice on coping with the cost-of-living crisis as a pet owner can be found here and donations can be made here. They also have a tool to find your nearest pet food bank here.
- PDSA – Provide care for pets whose owners can’t afford the full cost of treatment, you can find out more about their work or make a donation here.
- Dogs Trust – Tips on caring for your dog during the cost-of-living crisis can be found here and the various ways you can support the charity are explained here. Dogs trust have also opened a network of dog food banks, you can find your nearest one here.
- Cats Protection – Advice on saving money as a cat owner can be found here and ways to support the charity can be found here.
- Blue Cross – Support with all areas of pet ownership can be found here, information on their pet food banks can be found here and donations can be made here.
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