Growing numbers of animal lovers are parting with their pets – from cats and dogs to snakes and lizards – as the cost-of-living crunch keeps growing.
Some owners are dumping them on streets, with 206 dogs and 164 cats currently being looked after at rehoming centres run by the Battersea animal charity.
It’s a similar story at other centres across the country – with some seeing record inquiries for dog and cat returns – as the tightest squeeze on living standards since at least the 1960s is forcing droves of owners to decide the additional cost of food plus hundreds of pounds in vet bills is now no longer manageable.
Steve Craddock, manager of the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home centre in south London, warned: ‘We are concerned that this crisis will be an increasing reason for people bringing their dogs in to Battersea.’
Exotic pets such as snakes and lizards are also proving too expensive due to their need for specialist heating and lighting. Three snakes, including an 8-foot (2.4-metre) boa constrictor were recently dumped in pillow cases outside a reptile shop, the RSPCA said.
The trend, which follows a surge in demand for pets during the Covid pandemic lockdowns, comes as households brace for energy bills to more than triple in January.
Dogs Trust, which currently has 692 dogs needing homes in 21 centres across the country, said the last time it had seen anything like this was in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.
The Trust’s operations director Adam Clowes said: ‘This cost-of-living crisis has crept up on us a lot more quickly than people ever expected.’
Such is the pressure that the charity is considering whether it should expand an emergency support fund – normally reserved for people on welfare benefits who need short-term financial support to keep their pets – to more middle-income earners.
Animal charities say they are also worried the squeeze on living standards will have an impact on donations, though they are not seeing this yet.
Previous reports on the trend have said owners are coming to rehoming centres in tears at having to give up animals to pay bills.
Being rehomed is unlikely to be the case for most animals, with another charity, Woodgreen, saying applications to adopt animals have plunged to the 100s a month – from around 10,000 during lockdowns.
Pilar Gómez-Igbo, an assistant editor, could have been one potential owner, but having done some research she is now worried about the extra costs.
She said: ‘As the change in living costs became more evident, yes definitely, it joined the list of things to seriously consider. I will make myself wait a little.’
Andrea Gamby-Boulger from Wetnose Animal Aid said “Could be another grim year for animal welfare and the smaller Rescue Centres, we have been giving funds to the smaller Rescue Centres for over 22 years and we have never seen so many depressed and worried Rescue Centre owners around the UK, its not just cats and dogs, its ponies, parrots, snakes, all pets in general, people are really worried and this will go on into 2023 as well with food shortages, a perfect storm.”