Who we are
At the RSPCA, we are incredibly proud to be the oldest animal welfare charity in England & Wales, and continue to be there caring for every animal. Our vision is a world where all animals are respected and treated with kindness and compassion. Our range of services operate 365 days a year to make positive change for animal welfare, from prevention and educational work, the direct rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of animals, and advocating on behalf of all animals.
Cost of living crisis and animal welfare
As people across England and Wales continue to be hard-pressed by the cost of living crisis they are forced into making incredibly difficult decisions, none more so than around their animals. The RSPCA has seen a massive increase in people reporting problems with the cost of veterinary care, insurance, electricity costs for reptiles and even pet food. This has been exacerbated by the pandemic’s legacy, with pet ownership increasing during lockdown with people searching for companionship without being fully prepared for the many costs associated with pet ownership.
Since early 2022 we have seen a worrying increase in dog neglect and abandonment with our frontline officers raising concerns that owners who bought them under Covid on impulse have abandoned them as they cannot afford to care for them with increasing vet bills, expensive grooming treatments, food and boarding costs. 95% of RSPCA officers recently surveyed identified the biggest cause of neglect they witnessed is due to the cost of care.
Last year we received 3,644 calls from people asking for help with vet bills- a growth of 12% on the previous year and a trend we see continuing to worsen as private veterinary costs for an initial consultation has risen from £35 to £50. The increase in demand has resulted in us having to introduce waiting lists at our low cost veterinary clinics to cope.
Beau is a one year-old French Bulldog who spent months in our care earlier this year. Like most flat-faced dogs he had significant trouble breathing and was handed over to the RSPCA after his owners couldn’t afford the expensive vet bills for the life saving treatment he needed. Bulldogs have seen a 149% increase in their ownership between 2011-2020 with a massive uptake coming into the RSPCA as their owners can’t afford their vet bills.
The increasing cost of pet ownership has resulted in more everyday heart wrenching scenes as people either give their pets into our care or abandon them.We have already seen a 95% increase in the numbers of rabbits coming into our care during March and April 2022 compared with the same time last year.
A lesson from the past
At the peak of the 2008-2012 banking crisis we saw a 115% increase in the number of horses we collected and PDSA saw a 48% increase in demand for low-cost veterinary care. This highlights the connection between increasing poverty and increasing demand for pet rescue services. We are very concerned that this situation is repeating itself, we have already had to introduce waiting lists for dogs and rabbits at some of our centres.
Rising abandonment crisis
Four kittens and their mum were recently rescued after being abandoned in a field with nothing more than a bag of biscuits, and a plastic bottle cut in half and filled with water. Our inspector, Clarie, was first on the scene and despite looking extensively was only able to locate the mother initially hiding in a hedge. Upon returning the next morning the remaining four kittens were found - meowing in distress.
“Whatever situation someone finds themselves in, abandoning animals is never okay. This cat family was lucky, but there’s no guarantee that animals will be found or not become hurt or lost when they are left like this”- Claire Davey Inspector
How the crisis is affecting us
The RSPCA as a charity is also struggling with the rising costs that we are all facing through things like utility bills and petrol will impact us directly at our animal centres, veterinary clinics, and animal rescuers out on the road.
We’ve been managing a significant rise year on year of some animals coming into our care- in the first four months of the year the charity took in 79% more rabbits and 18% more cats than last year. We currently are managing a waiting list for all species of animals in private boarding establishments, waiting for space in an RSPCA rehoming centre.
This has been coupled with a reduction in rehoming as the RSPCA rehomes 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 with us for longer.
How we have been helping people cope
Whilst we are struggling to manage the crisis ourselves we remain committed to helping ease the struggle of pet owners paying for pet food. Through the RSPCA Pet Food Bank Project more than 20 RSPCA centres and branches have set up a partnership with food banks in the north of England which will reach 110 banks by next year, helping to source pet food for these communities, allowing owners to continue to care for their pet rather than make the difficult decision to sign over their pet to our care
In the first quarter of 2022 we distributed double the pet food from the previous year to help meet the increasing demand.
Any support you can give means we can continue to be there for all animals during this time of crisis.