Pets are becoming victims of the cost of living crisis as Britain faces an animal welfare emergency, charities have warned.
Shocking new statistics highlight the dilemma facing pet owners who fear they can no longer afford to feed them. And rescues are already reporting a rise in the number of animals surrendered.
According to the RSPCA’s 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. Cat owners seem to be most affected and concerned about cost of living pressures.
Another factor leading to animals being given up is the huge rise in people adopting pets during the pandemic, some of whom find they no longer have the time to care for them.
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 behavioural support, vet care or even to feed their pets.
“The RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA prioritise 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.
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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