Surge in cash-strapped Britons abandoning pets due to the cost of living crisis

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Increasing numbers of cash-strapped Britons are giving up their pets because they can no longer afford their upkeep during the cost of living crisis, charities have warned.

Dogs, cats and other animals face being left in compounds as people across the country divert more of their cash towards covering sky high energy costs, which are set to rise again in October.

The price cap on gas and electricity bills currently stands at £1,971 for a typical house in England, but is expected to jump to around £3,600 in October after the regulator intervenes amid the global rise of wholesale gas prices, partly fuelled by Russia's war in Ukraine.

Steve Craddock with Harriet, an English cocker spaniel (Battersea Dogs and Cats Home)
Steve Craddock with Harriet, an English cocker spaniel (Battersea Dogs and Cats Home)

And there are fears that exotic pets such as snakes and lizards could be particularly affected because of their need for specialist lighting and heat.

Harriet, a black English cocker spaniel, was taken to Battersea Dogs and Cats home after she was abandoned by her owners, who witnesses say pushed her out of a car onto a busy road in the capital.

"We are concerned that's going to be an increasing reason for people bringing their dogs into Battersea," Steve Craddock, who manages the centre in southwest London, said.

Harriet is one of 206 dogs and 164 cats currently being looked after at rehoming centres run by the Battersea animal charity.

Three snakes, including an 8-foot (2.4-metre) boa constrictor, were recently dumped in pillow cases outside a reptile shop, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said.

The trend, which follows a surge in demand for pets during Covid pandemic lockdowns in a country known for its love of animals, comes as households brace for energy bills to more than triple in January on last year, hammering people's incomes.

The Bank of England has also warned the UK is about to go into a recession which could last several months.

Dogs Trust, which currently has 692 dogs needing homes in 21 centres across the country, said the last time it had seen anything like this was in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.

"This cost of living crisis has crept up on us a lot more quickly than people ever expected," said the Trust's operations director Adam Clowes.

Such is the pressure that the charity is considering whether it should expand an emergency support fund, normally reserved for people on welfare benefits who need short-term financial support to keep their pets, to more middle-income earners.

Animal charities say they are also worried the squeeze on living standards will have an impact on donations, though they are not seeing this yet.

At Battersea, some pets are being rehomed. Magpie is a British short hair cat who arrived pregnant after her owner of two years realised that they could not afford the kittens. All of her four kittens have now been found new homes.

But that is unlikely to be the case for most animals, with another charity, Woodgreen, saying applications to adopt animals have dropped to the 100s a month from around 10,000 during lockdowns.