RSPCA figures show that animal abandonment has increased by over 25% since January, exacerbated by economic hardship.
The national animal welfare charity’s figures, released on World Animal Day, show that rehoming has dropped 8% while animal intake is up 8.4% year-on-year. According to an RSPCA pet welfare expert, this concerning trend reflects the issues faced today:
“Unfortunately, we believe we’re really starting to see the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis on animal owners.”Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA pet welfare
Neglect and abandonment due to shrinking budgets, and the climbing costs of pet care make life as a pet-parent harder than ever before. All while the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are ever-present, resulting in behavioural issues in pets linked to a lack of training, socialising and outside world experience.
Shelters across the UK are “drowning in animals”, with owners struggling to feed and care for their pets. Since January, the RSPCA received over 22,908 animal abandonment reports, more than a 25% increase compared to the same period last year; 50% more rabbits, 14% more cats and 3% more dogs were abandoned.
In 2019, the RSPCA rehomed 800 animals a week, this dropped to 518 a week in 2020 following lockdown restrictions. Currently in Lancashire, nearly 700 rescue animals are currently waiting for a space at RSPCA facilities.
“As more animals come into our care, [and] stay for longer with us, and since less people are adopting, we’re in a really worrying situation. It’s a real ‘space race’ at the moment – with no room at so many of our jam-packed centres.”Brian Reeves, RSPCA head of volunteering
According to the RSPCA’s “Animal Kindness Index,” 68% of pet owners were concerned about the increasing costs in pet care while 19% were worried about being able to feed their companions. To mediate this, the RSPCA recently launched a new webpage, as well as a pet food bank scheme, to help struggling owners, so they don’t ‘have to give up their companion and a real source of comfort’ by providing as much food as possible (Alison Fletcher, RSPCA deputy chief inspector.)
To combat capacity issues for pets already abandoned, fostering schemes have been employed, where prospective owners are carefully vetted, making sure they are a ‘good fit’ for the pups waiting for their ‘forever homes. The objective of the schemes, per East Lancashire’s RSPCA fostering coordinator is to allow rehoming centres to return to pre-pandemic capacity.
Many have cut costs on grooming, recreational items, and switching to cheaper, more affordable food. Katy is the owner of Spot, a young pup that was gravely injured in August. The vet bills have amounted to thousands, and yet this, in combination with the rising costs of pet ownership, hasn’t been enough to break her spirit:
“It’s been hard, but I won’t give it up like this. A dog is a lifelong commitment.”Katy, Dog Owner
The concept of ‘Pandemic Puppies’ is part of the issue as well; animals, bought on impulse, oftentimes by first-time owners, later left alone for the first time a year after their homing. This leaves many dogs in shelters with anxiety, aggression and health issues, pouring fuel on the fire. This runs parallel to the popular view taken towards pets as soon ‘discarded’ Christmas gifts.
For those in the position to adopt a pet, pet charities are ‘urgently’ asking for owners to adopt from shelters, to give these dogs and cats a ‘fresh start in life.’ Expecting the situation to worsen in the winter months, and as the cost of living crisis further progresses, adopting is more important now than ever.