Pets returned to shelters in Hungary as owners face rising costs

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Chelsy, a soft-eyed dog with an immune illness, has been returned to a Hungarian animal shelter two years after he was adopted as his owners can no longer afford the vet's bills or his food, forced to sell their own home to make ends meet.

Chelsy, 4, is not alone. People turn up daily on the doorstep of the Noah's Ark Animal Shelter, saying they cannot care for their pets due to the rising costs of living and energy prices and with some owners moving abroad for work.

"Our list of returned animals is extremely long," said Kinga Schneider, spokesperson for the shelter, Hungary's largest animal home which looks after more than 1,200 animals ranging from rescued dogs to cats and poultry.

The shelter itself is struggling to pay for increased energy and feed prices while donations -- its sole source of revenue -- have decreased.

"We are now living from day to day and we have to consider hard whether we can accommodate an animal, whether we can finance the healing of an animal," Schneider says.

The situation is similar across Hungary's animal shelters, according to the Hungarian Animal Protection Alliance. Other countries including Britain have reported similar patterns.

One of the main problems is feed prices which have gone up 20%-30%, Zoltan Czibula, managing director of AlphaZoo, one of Hungary's leading petshop chains, said.

Pet owners walking their dogs in a Budapest park confirmed the costs of keeping pets has surged.

"It's an average 30% rise in for all such costs (of the animals). And because all the other costs have gone up, too, it affects them most," Andras Biro said, playing with his black spaniel.

(Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo; Writing by Krisztina Than; Editing by Alison Williams)