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Some Brits are abandoning their pets as cost of living skyrockets

A litter of Australian shepherd puppies in an animal shelter. (George Peters/Getty Images)
3 min

LONDON — With inflation at its highest rate in 40 years and prices of energy and food soaring, millions across Britain are having to make tough decisions to survive. For some, the cost-of-living crisis means they have little choice but to give up their pets.

On Wednesday, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), a British charity dedicated to animal welfare, deemed the cost-of-living crisis “an urgent threat to pet welfare” and said it was witnessing a spike in the number of abandoned pets.

About 129 pets are being abandoned each day in England and Wales — up from 104 last year, the charity said, adding that the rise in pets purchased amid the coronavirus crisis last year, coupled with the current economic crisis, had exacerbated the issue.

Dogs are the most abandoned pet, followed by cats, the charity said. Exotic pets such as snakes and lizards are also being surrendered to animal centers and charities, probably because the coldblooded creatures require special heating and lighting in their enclosures.

Other animals seeking homes include Rupert the rabbit and abandoned cockerels Ben Aff-peck and Elvis Peckley.

Animal organizations have also expressed concern that the number of abandoned pets will increase as winter approaches and people are forced to choose between paying for heating or feeding their pets.

By October, many households will be paying out an estimated 80 percent more a year on their energy bills, the Associated Press reported, as pressure grows on the British government to do more to support those struggling amid the cost-of-living crisis.

The Bank of England has warned that inflation could peak at more than 13 percent this year.

Citing data from a U.K.-wide survey, the RSPCA noted that 78 percent of pet owners think the cost-of-living crisis would impact their animals. Another animal welfare charity, the Dogs Trust, warned that a significant decline in adopters could trigger an animal housing crisis.

“The UK is fast heading towards a situation in which, due to the cost of living crisis, we’ll have a surplus of dogs whose owners need to give them up, but a deficit of people who can afford to take on a new dog,” Owen Sharp, Dogs Trust CEO, said in a statement before issuing a call for emergency fosterers.

But as abandonments rise, adoption numbers are falling. Those who once might have considered adopting or fostering an animal now fear they are unable to afford the re-homing process. Organizations are also worried that donations will dry up as people reassess and limit their spending.

The Dogs Trust, which has almost 700 dogs needing homes across 21 centers nationwide, said that in recent months it had received a record number of calls from people asking the charity to take in their dogs. Some cited the rising cost of dog food and treats, while others said they could not afford to run a household and also look after a pet.

In July alone, the charity received more than 4,000 inquiries from people seeking to surrender a pet — the highest level since its records began.

Some pet owners say they would rather go without eating than surrender their beloved companions, while others have hailed local pet food banks for helping them to feed their animals and keep them at home.

Dog owner Kassandra McGowan from Pembrokeshire in Wales told British media about a local service that provides her with food deliveries each month as she grapples with financial uncertainty.

“If it weren’t for them, I don’t know where I’d be now,” she said.