The cost of living crisis is the most urgent threat to pet welfare, a new Animal Kindness Index compiled by the RSPCA* reveals.

The RSPCA has today released its groundbreaking inaugural report in partnership with the Scottish SPCA – the Animal Kindness Index – which looks at the nation’s attitude towards animals.

The report, in part based on a YouGov survey of more than 4,000 UK adults**, found that animal welfare is one of the top most important social issues people were asked about, that over two-thirds (69%) of the public describe themselves as ‘animal-lovers’, and that 75% of people said they’d carried out an act of kindness for animals in the past.

However, the report also revealed that the rising cost of living and the cost of pet ownership could threaten our love for our pets, with 78% of pet owners saying they think the cost of living will impact their animals, almost seven out of 10 (68%) expressing concern that the cost of care was increasing, and a fifth (19%) worried about how they’ll afford to feed their pets. The study showed cat owners seem to be most impacted and concerned about cost of living pressures.

In Wales, 65% of people said that the cost of looking after their pet had become more expensive over the last 12 months while 19% said they were worried about being able to afford to properly care for their pet and 18% said they were worried about the cost of feeding their pets.

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% 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.”

The real impact on our pets

 

The RSPCA is sadly seeing an increase in rescued animals coming into their care, with many rehoming centres already full and others close to capacity:

The RSPCA is seeing a year-on-year rise in some pets coming into its care – in the first five months of 2022, the charity took in 49% more rabbits, 14% more cats and 3% more dogs than the same period in 2021;

RSPCA research shows that, in April 2021, there were around 4,400 searches per month online around ‘giving up pets’ and, in April 2022, this rose by 50% to a high of 6,600;

The RSPCA received 3,644 calls last year (2021) categorised as ‘help with vet bills’ – a growth of 12% year-on-year;

In the first quarter of 20220, the RSPCA experienced a 9% increase in calls to its emergency hotline;

This all comes at a time when rehoming has slowed: the RSPCA rehomed an average of 753 animals per week in 2019, 565 in 2020 and 518 in 2021 meaning that spaces aren’t being freed up as quickly and animals are staying in care for longer;

The RSPCA currently has a waiting list for all species of animals in private boarding establishments who are waiting for space in an RSPCA rehoming centre so they can begin their rehabilitation and search for a new home.

Feeding the nation’s pets

The RSPCA has expanded its food bank scheme – after receiving a generous grant from the Pets At Home Foundation of more than £150,000 over two years – in England to help more pet owners who are

struggling.

Dozens of RSPCA centres and branches have teamed up with their local food banks or are offering support to local families who are struggling, including RSPCA Aberconwy Branch in Wales.

How to help

The RSPCA prioritises space in their centres and local branches (140 RSPCA branches across England and Wales) for those animals rescued from cruelty and neglect by our unique frontline officers. The charity would encourage people wanting to give up pets to seek help from other charities in the first instance as we sadly may not have space to help.

The RSPCA’s emergency cruelty line is under growing pressure as calls have returned to pre-pandemic levels and as we enter the busy summer season. Sadly we are not able to help with cost of living problems.

There are lots of ways to show kindness to animals this summer:

To help, please donate to your local pet food bank (find your local food bank online) or donate to your local rescue centre via its Amazon Wishlist;

Or to donate to help the RSPCA continue in their vital work to rescue animals from cruelty, rehabilitate the sick and injured, and rehome and release animals, please visit www.rspca.org.uk/donate.

If you collect Nectar points when you’re shopping you could donate these points to the RSPCA through our Crowdfunder page.

 

By Editor

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