Britain is on the ‘brink of an animal welfare crisis’ as owners can’t afford pet food

A new Animal Kindness Index compiled by the RSPCA has shown that the cost of living crisis is the most pressing threat to pet welfare – and is likely to impact how owners care for their pets

According to the RSPCA's Animal Kindness Index, one in five dog owners worry about how they can afford to feed their pet
According to the RSPCA’s Animal Kindness Index, one in five dog owners worry about how they can afford to feed their pet

Distressed dog owners are having to abandon their pets due to the cost of living crisis – while others fear they can’t afford to feed them.

Shocking new statistics highlight the difficult situation more and more pet owners find themselves in as things get more expensive.

A survey of more than 4,000 adults found that the rising cost of living could affect their posture and force them to send their pets to a sanctuary.

According to the RSPCA’s new Animal Welfare Index, produced in conjunction with Scotland’s SPCA, one in five owners are concerned about how they will care for their animals if animal feed prices rise.

The study showed that cat owners seem most concerned and concerned about the pressure on the cost of living.

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Owners may need to make changes to the way they care for their pets as the cost of living crisis continues


(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Emma Slawinski, director of advocacy and policy at the RSPCA, said: “It’s great that our research has confirmed that we are a nation of animal lovers, but we cannot ignore the strong evidence that the cost of living crisis is the single greatest threat for pets is 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 pressures on the cost of living – particularly among those on lower incomes. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

“We are beginning to see the knock-on effects of this, as we and other charities have predicted.

“Tragically, we are seeing increasing abandonment of pets and a growing number of cats and rabbits being rescued and coming into our care.

“It is worrying to see that 33 per cent of pet owners have had issues with their pets that they did not anticipate and unfortunately we are now seeing an increase in pets coming into our care, many because owners are struggling to deal with them support them to pay for behavioral problems, provide veterinary care, or even feed their pets.

“The RSPCA and Scottish SPCA are prioritizing animals most in need of neglect and distress and would like to urge all pet owners to seek help to address issues as quickly as possible so that problems do not spiral out of control.”

Cat owners seem to be most concerned about the pressure on the cost of living


Getty Images/Westend61)

The real impact on Britain’s pets

The RSPCA and Scottish SPCA are seeing an increase in rescued animals coming into their care, with many placement centers already at full capacity and others nearing capacity:

  • The RSPCA is seeing an increase in some pets coming into its care each year – in the first five months of 2022 the charity took in 49 per cent more rabbits, 14 per cent more cats and 3 per cent more dogs than the same period in the year 2021;

  • The Scottish SPCA saw a 12 per cent increase in the number of rabbits taken into their care and a 15 per cent increase in the number of dogs taken in;

  • RSPCA research shows that in April 2021 there were around 4,400 searches per month on the topic of “abandon pets” and this number increased by 50 percent to a peak of 6,600 in April 2022;

  • The RSPCA received 3,644 calls categorized as “assistance with vet bills” last year (2021) – a 12 percent year-on-year growth;

  • In the first quarter of 20220, the RSPCA saw a nine percent increase in calls to its emergency number;

  • This all comes at a time when placement has slowed: the RSPCA was re-housing an average of 753 animals per week in 2019, 565 in 2020 and 518 in 2021, meaning places are not being released anytime soon and the animals stay in care longer;

  • The RSPCA currently has a waiting list for all animal species in private shelters awaiting a place at an RSPCA accommodation center so they can begin their rehabilitation and search for a new home, while the SSPCA is almost at capacity with its nine shelters in all of Scotland.

Gilly Mendes Ferreira, Head of Innovation and Strategic Relationships at the Scottish SPCA, said: “The research undertaken 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 subsequently contributed to the development of this index.

“We’ve been fortunate so far in not seeing a major impact on our services from the cost of living crisis, but we’re 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 through the hardest of times.

“However, in the coming months, due to rising costs, we expect an increase in pet owners who cannot take care of their animals or afford vet bills.

“We’ve seen an increase in rabbits coming into our care and being abandoned.

“We are concerned that this may have been a knock-on effect of lockdown, where people have adopted a pet they thought would be an ‘easy’ pet compared to a dog or cat and are now struggling with the reality, themselves to take care of a rather complex animal.

“A key part of our 10-year strategy is to reduce unintentional cruelty by 50 percent by 2032.

“We can only do this by working with partners like the RSPCA to understand the issues affecting pet owners across Scotland and find ways to support them.”

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