UK cost of living crisis sees surge in pet abandonments: charity

·3-min read

The UK's leading animal charity on Tuesday blamed spiralling costs and the huge upsurge in pet ownership during the pandemic for a 24-percent rise in pet abandonments this year.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) reported 22,908 abandonments in the first seven months of this year, compared with 18,375 in the same period of 2021.

"The idea of putting your cat in a cat carrier and taking them to a secluded spot in the woods before walking away, or chucking your dog out of the car... is absolutely unthinkable and heartbreaking to most pet owners," said Dermot Murphy, the RSPCA's chief inspectorate officer.

"But sadly we are seeing animals callously abandoned like this every single day.

"We understand that sometimes the unexpected can happen -- the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis proved that -- but there is never an excuse to abandon an animal."

The charity, which is running an anti-animal cruelty campaign, attributed the surge to the pandemic and cost of living crisis for stretching pet owners' finances.

Britain is in the grip of double-digit inflation, running at 40-year highs, as well as a spiralling energy crisis that has left millions facing eye-watering gas and electricity bills this winter.

Around a fifth of pet owners are worried about how they will feed their animal, according to the charity's Animal Kindness Index survey.

The UK's leading cat welfare charity meanwhile issued an urgent plea to potential adoptees after its waiting lists soared to a historic high.

Cats Protection said the number of cats waiting to enter its adoption centres rose by 46 percent in July 2022 compared to July 2021.

- Snakes dumped -

"This is the worst situation in organisational memory in terms of the pressure on our services to take in cats," said Peter Shergold, head of field operations for Cats Protection.

"The rise is directly linked to the cost-of-living crisis, such as not having the funds to afford the basics like cat food or cat litter."

Fellow animal charities Dogs Trust and Battersea have also warned of an increase in people wanting to give up their pets in recent months.

The RSPCA cited harrowing examples, including the case of terrier dog Freya, who was thrown out of a truck driving at around 50 miles per hour (80 kilometres per hour).

"Freya was incredibly lucky to survive after being hurled from the moving vehicle at such a high speed," said inspector Kirsten Ormerod.

Other cases include 20 puppies found abandoned in Essex, southeast England, and four snakes dumped in plastic storage boxes beside the roadside in Surrey, south of London.

A woman spotted the three royal pythons and one corn snake as she drove by.

"The four snakes were each inside their own plastic storage box lined with newspaper," said animal rescuer Chloe Wilson.

"Some of the snakes had bowls of water while others had DIY hides.

"It was chucking it down (with rain) so the top box was beginning to fill with water and the snake could have easily drowned.

"All of the snakes were dangerously cold having been out in the cold weather."

Abandonments increased by 17 percent in 2021 to 38,087 as coronavirus restrictions were lifted, with dogs (14,462) and cats (10,051) most affected.

There were 3,363 abandoned exotic pets, including 1,455 fish and 685 snakes.

jwp/phz/jj