Pets: The True Cost - Tonight

Pets: The True Cost will be on ITV on 5th April at 7:30pm Credit: ITV/Tonight

Many of us are potty for pets. Around half of all UK households own an animal companion. It’s not surprising, considering the benefits: pets are known to help lower blood pressure and lessen anxiety. They boost our immunity. Walking a dog is good exercise, and looking after pets teaches us about empathy, compassion, and commitment.

But food, accommodation and vet bills can mount up, and sometimes those costs are unsustainable, leaving some pets abandoned, or being handed to a rehoming charity. We spend an eye-watering £8 billion a year on pets in the UK.

There’s also a health warning to those who may be looking to buy the latest trendy pet. Tonight met Janey Byrne, who, inspired by celebrities like Victoria Beckham, purchased two ‘micropigs’. The pigs, which live in her house are now 24 stone each, and cost her an estimated £6000 a year!

Now the internet has opened up a new world - with all manner of animals on sale - from puppies and kittens, to exotic animals like snakes, monkeys, and even crocodiles. But animal charities have told Tonight that there’s often a cost to the animal’s wellbeing, and some animals are simply not suitable as domestic pets.

So how do we keep a lid on legitimate costs, avoid being ripped off, and get the right pet for us? Reporter Jonathan Maitland investigates, in Tonight - Pets: The True Cost.

Unexpected bills…

Dogs and cats are by far the most popular pets in Britain - there are about 20 million of them. But they’re not’s estimated a dog owner will spend up to £33,000 on their pet during its life. Cat owners are forking out around £24,000.

Pet insurance can help to cover unexpected costs. But sometimes, insurance premiums don’t cover excessive costs, as dog owners Kat Fowler and Sean Jackson found out. They were faced with a £6000 vet bill when their dog Scooby was run over. The couple loved Scooby dearly, but did not think they could afford that amount.

Luckily in their case, Scooby recovered without expensive surgery.

Kat and her dog Scooby, after he was run over. Credit: ITV/Tonight

Horse crisis

We are it seems in the midst of something of a crisis when it comes to pet horses and ponies. The RSPCA is having to rescue more of them than ever before. One reason could be the cost of looking after them.

Sue Walters, of the RSPCA’s Millbrook Centre, told Tonight:


But for some of us, pets our priceless. Reporter Jonny Maitland met Natalie Preston, from Southport. Natalie suffers from cerebral palsy. A few years ago, she didn’t have much confidence, and relied on her mother and father to help her with everyday tasks. But her life completely changed when she got an assistance dog - a black labrador called Faye.

From closing and opening doors, picking up things that Natalie drops, helping her do the shopping, and even taking money out of the cash machine, there’s hardly anything that wonder-pup Faye can’t do.

Natalie’s mother Sally told reporter Jonny Maitland how invaluable Faye has been to their whole family:

Thinking about getting a pet?

Sean Wensley, Senior vet at the PDSA charity, advises:

He also recommends pet owners to take “a preventative approach to health and disease” by vaccinating animals early and ensuring that they are not overweight.

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Do you have a priceless pet? We want to see them! Send your pictures and let us know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, using #PricelessPets