Cost of Living: What to do if you can't afford your pets anymore

  • Video report by John Ryall

Not so long ago, families were buying dogs and cats in their tens of thousands as companions during the long Covid lockdowns.

However, faced with a cost of living crisis, pets are now being dropped off at animal rescue centres or dumped on the roadside in record numbers.

A report from the RSPCA has revealed a 15% increase in abandoned pets in Sussex in the first six months of this year, and a 50% rise in Kent.

With a cost-of-energy crisis on the way, animal charities say this is just the start and it's now harder than ever to re-home pets while donations have slumped.

According to the RSPCA, there's been a 50% rise in abandoned pets in Kent. Credit: ITV News Meridian

What can pet owners do?

In the first instance, you can seek support and advice from your vet or local animal charity.

The RSPCA says it is important to try and keep animals in the home with the owner if possible.

If you are not able to keep your animal, are you able to find a temporary home for them? Family and friends are often happy to step in to help look after your pet, as many people do during holidays.

There are also charities which can provide shelter and care for the pets of people in crisis.

How to cut pet costs at home

Try a cheaper food brand - the well-known pet food brands often cost significantly more than less well-known ones.

Look at the ingredients, as you may be able to find cheaper alternatives with equivalent nutritional value.

It can also be cheaper to purchase pet food online, instead of buying it from a shop.

Food banks are also on-hand to help pet food supplies.

Avoid taking your pet to a grooming centre - grooming your pet from home can save you some money in the long-term.

Vet Costs

If your pet is in need of medical care, check with your vet whether you can pay your bills in instalments.

Though it can feel awkward to talk about money, the RSPCA says it's good to speak honestly with your vet about what you can afford as there may be alternative options. 

You may also be able to find the same medication for a cheaper price at a different pharmacy.

Pets owners are, however, advised not to try home remedies. Many common human products and medications can be very harmful when used on pets.

If you're not able to find support and advice where you live, try looking a little bit further away.

Some vets can provide low-cost services and you may find a not-for-profit clinic through companies like the Animal Trust.

What to do if you find an abandoned animal

If you find an abandoned dog, you're advised to call your local dog warden. You can contact your local council for more information.

Abandoned cats should be taken to a local vets where they can care for it and then contact the RSPCA. However people are being warned that a cat that looks healthy, may not be a stray, but might just enjoy wandering.

Domestic rabbits found out as a stray should be contained where possible according to the RSPCA.

Any other animals considered pets that are found - should be contained. People are urged to advertise and use social media to try ad track down the owner.

'I'm really worried', said RSPCA Inspector Rosie Russon

RSPCA Inspector, Rosie Russon, said: "It's incredibly worrying. I'm an inspector out in the field and I'm scared, I'm worried about where this is going.

"I'm really worried about people and also the people's animals. It's out of control at the moment.

"What we need to do is keep those animals in the home with the owner and that's the best thing for the family.

"If it's a well-cared, well-loved animal, keep it with the owner and perhaps support from ourselves and other agencies and other departments like food banks can help these people keep them in the home."

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