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Cost of living: Rise in owners giving up pets

Published:
7:00 AM May 5, 2022



Animal rescue centers say they are seeing a rise in the number of pets being handed in because owners are struggling to cope with increases in the cost of living.

The price of vet bills and pet food – combined with wider squeezes on household finances – are being blamed, as well as families being forced to move to smaller properties which are not suitable for their pets.

One Norfolk rescue center currently has twice the number of pets in its care that it had at this time last year.

Staff at another shelter said they were facing “distressing” cases of people handing over their beloved animals because they could not afford to care for them.




Bear, who is at the Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Trust. The rescue center currently has six dogs in its kennels and 10 cats.
– Credit: Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Trust

In one case, owners had to give up their dog of 10 years as financial pressures meant they had to move to a property where pets were not allowed.

Another case saw owners unable to afford the £1,200 cost of an emergency caesarean and forced to hand their dog over. Ultimately, none of the pups survived.

In a bid to curb the trend animal welfare charities have given tips on how to keep pet costs down and where to get help.

Financial pressures see people give up pets


Carl Saunders, branch manager at RSPCA West Norfolk with a British Bulldog.

Carl Saunders, branch manager at RSPCA West Norfolk with a British Bulldog which was recently brought in because of an expensive hip operation.
– Credit: RSPCA West Norfolk

Carl Saunders, manager of the West Norfolk RSPCA Branch, said: “I think the underlying trend is financial now.”

He believes the issue of abandonments will continue for the foreseeable future as vet bills “are not going to come down”.

The branch has seen animals in its care more than double since last year, from 23 to 59 currently, and its vet bill also more than double in the same period.

Mr Saunders said: “If people are looking to get a new animal they need to look at rescue centers first, the last thing we want is to expand on the problems.”

An RSPCA spokesperson said: “We’re concerned that we could see a rise in abandonments as the rising cost of living puts a strain on people’s finances or we could see a rise in pets being treated with home remedies to cut costs instead of being taken.” to the vet.”

‘Dogs coming in with medical problems’

Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Trust, based in Great Yarmouth, has reported similar problems.


Sandy, who is at the Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Trust.  The rescue center currently has six dogs in its kennels and 10 cats.

Sandy, who is at the Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Trust. The rescue center currently has six dogs in its kennels and 10 cats.
– Credit: Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Trust

Frances Payne, a trustee, said: “We’re finding people are handing or wanting to hand their dogs in cause they can’t afford their vets bills. For some it’s very distressing.

“People are literally living on the breadline.

“We’re taking a lot of dogs in that have a lot of medical problems because they’ve been left instead of getting a problem sorted straight away.”


Ruudy, who is at the Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Trust kennel.

Ruudy, who is at the Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Trust kennel.
– Credit: Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Trust

Covid puppies and people returning to work

Another factor behind the rise in abandonments, say center staff, is owners having second thoughts about animals they took on during the pandemic, when many people were working at home.

A spokeswoman at FAITH Animal Rescue, based in Hickling said: “We call them ‘Covid puppies’, where people have gone out and bought puppies during the pandemic and not been able to socialize them.

“They’ve been around all the time and have now been able to go back to work and the dogs are left on their own.”


Molly, who is at the Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Trust.  The rescue center currently has six dogs in its kennels and 10 cats.

Molly, who is at the Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Trust. The rescue center currently has six dogs in its kennels and 10 cats.
– Credit: Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Trust

How to keep your pet costs down

The RSPCA is urging those who are struggling to care for their pet as a result of the cost of living crisis to seek help from friends and family, or reputable charities.

The charity also says to help minimize the likelihood of a large unexpected bill to register with a vet and follow advice on preventative care such as flea and worming.

Expenses such as food, dog walking services, veterinary bills or dog training classes should be considered.

Consider fostering a dog – for instance via the Dogs Trust – rather than owning one.

Unless pets have a specific dietary requirement they do not need expensive food.

Think carefully about insurance and research which breeds might develop longer-term issues which can create an expense.

For more help and advice visit rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/unwantedpets

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