Animal welfare crisis warning over cost of living

The Scottish SPCA has claimed there is an animal welfare crisis in Scotland due to cost of living pressures.

Arrivals at its rescue centres have increased by 25% to 3,518 in the first six months of 2023.

In Aberdeenshire that figure was 60%, with more than 800 animals coming through the doors.

The charity said the current situation was worse than it anticipated, with calls to its helpline four times higher than two years ago.

Kirsteen Campbell, the Scottish SPCA's chief executive, said vet and food bills were a playing a major role in owners having to give up their pets.

"There is an absolute animal welfare crisis in Scotland, often hidden in plain sight," she said.

"We all know in the pandemic that animal ownership really rose, so that means going into a cost of living crisis more and more people have an animal in their life."

She said more than 4,000 people who called the charity's animal helpline in 2022 were looking to give up their pet. That number has risen even higher this year.

Ms Campbell added: "When animals do come into our care they need more veterinary treatment. They are in a worse condition."

The cost of living crisis has presented a perfect storm for the animal welfare charity - more people are having to give up their pets and fewer people are able to rehome them.

The charity said it had rolled out two initiatives - Pet Aid and Vet Aid - which it hopes will keep pets in the homes of caring owners who are struggling financially.

Fiona McKenzie, an inspector with the charity, said: "Our calls have definitely increased regarding welfare to animals, domestic pets in particular.

"Owners are struggling to pay for vet treatment and they're struggling to feed.

"Worst case scenario, which is happening a bit too often, is that they're having to give up ownership of their dog."

The additional arrivals put extra strain on rescue centres that are also experiencing an increase in their own bills and overheads.

The charity, which runs nine rescue centres across Scotland plus the National Wildlife Rescue Centre, receives no government funding.

As costs go up, it has also seen its number of donors decrease.

SNP MSP Christine Grahame has proposed a Welfare of Dogs bill at the Scottish Parliament which she believes would put more responsibility on those buying a dog.

The MSP hopes her bill will help tackle the puppy trade and also make people think about whether or not they can afford an animal.

"They have to think very hard about the cost of keeping the animal for over a decade and whether they've got energy and the right lifestyle for it," she told BBC Scotland.

"At least we could make some inroad into people having to think hard before they take on a puppy or a dog."