The RSPCA received more than 300 reports of abandoned animals across Wales last winter* and is worried a surge in pet ownership could result in more unwanted animals this year.
Last winter*, the charity received 4,650 reports of abandoned animals including 316 in Wales. The highest number of reports coming from Cardiff (38), Swansea (28) and Rhonnda Cynon Taff (26) – full table below. Of these reports were six rabbits abandoned in a box in Cardiff in February and Eggnog the hamster who was dumped in Swansea in December last year.
Already this November, there have been 985 reports of dumped and unwanted animals to the RSPCA’s cruelty line across England and Wales. Out of these reports, 57 were in Wales – and included the unusual abandonment of a lovebird left in a cage on the side of the road in Caerau, Cardiff.
The charity says reports of increased pet ownership, coupled with a deepening recession could see more pets left out in the cold this year.
Dermot Murphy, head of the RSPCA’s animal rescue teams, said: “During the lockdown there have been reports of a rise in people buying or adopting new pets***, often for the very first time. Whilst it’s great that so many people have become pet owners and have found their pet to be a real source of comfort during these challenging times, we are concerned that some people may have bought a pet on impulse without considering how their lifestyle might change once the pandemic ends. On top of that, we are facing real economic uncertainties, and, as in previous recessions, people may simply find themselves unable to afford their pet.
“The last thing we want to see is animals dumped and left out in the cold so we’d urge anyone who is struggling to care for their pets to please reach out to friends, family and charities for support instead.”
A poll by the RSPCA, conducted by YouGov** revealed that just over one in ten (11%) pet owners had taken on a pet during lockdown and, of those, nearly one in ten (9%) said that their pet had been more expensive than they had expected. Just over one in 20 (6%) were worried about being able to afford them in the future.
A third of GB adults who own a pet (33%) said they were worried that pets bought during lockdown will be abandoned if people returned to work and 31% said they were concerned that pets will be dumped this Christmas if people were struggling.
Dermot added: “We would always urge anyone considering getting a pet to thoroughly do their research to make sure they can give them the time, money and care they need for the rest of their lives. As the impact of the pandemic puts a strain on people’s finances and as many people start to return to work or some kind of normality, the fear is that we will see a surge in abandoned and neglected animals coming into our care.”
The most common concern reported to the RSPCA’s cruelty line last winter across England and Wales was neglect, with more than 76 reports a day relating to pain and disease (6,916) and 57 reports a day for unsuitable environments (5,134).
Since the start of lockdown, from March 23 until November 29, the RSPCA’s cruelty line has received 11,052 reports about abandoned animals across England and Wales.
The charity’s officers are out on the frontline 365 days a year to help those animals in need and this Christmas will be no exception. Donating just £25 could help keep our Animal Rescue Teams on the road.
This winter, the RSPCA expects to rescue thousands of animals from neglect, cruelty and suffering. To help our rescue teams reach the thousands of animals who desperately need us, visit www.rspca.org.uk/xmas and Join the Christmas Rescue #JoinTheRescue
*Winter = 1 Dec to 29 Feb
**You Gov poll carried out by the RSPCA with a sample size of 2,072 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st – 2nd October 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
*** Data relating to surge in pet ownership during lockdown:
Google keyword searches for ‘Puppies near me’ increased 650% between Jan-Jul 2020. ‘Adopting a dog’ saw a 204% increase in searches, ‘kittens near me’ an 188% increase from previous year.
Government figures show that the numbers of licences issued for the commercial import of dogs rose 87% from 14,075 (May-September 2019) to 26,4461 (for the same period this year).
The RSPCA also saw a 68% rise in unique views to its Find a Pet section of the website between March 23 and October 27 with 30,466,023 views.
The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association’s Covid-19 Pet Survey also confirmed a rise in pet acquisition. Over one third (35%) of young adults (age 24-35) confirmed they had got a new pet or were planning to. This equates to 2.1m (19%) of young people having already collected a new pet in lockdown and an additional 1.8m (16%) planning to add a pet to their household.
Pets4Homes, the online marketplace, also revealed that the demand for puppies rose by 104% compared to the prior year at the peak of lockdown (May 2020).