Animal charities overwhelmed with dogs dumped by people who can't afford to keep them

Pet homes say they're being inundated with requests to take in more and more pets - as their owners can no longer afford to care for them.

With energy bills rocketing and the prices of food and essentials also increasing, some pet-owners feel they have no option but to give up their beloved pets and take them to a pet home or animal shelter, as they can't afford to feed them or pay their medical bills alongside severely increased living costs.

One Gower-based animal sanctuary said it's been getting five to six phone calls a day from worried dog-owners pleading with volunteers to take-in their dear dogs, as they can't afford to keep them.

"People can no longer afford to keep their dogs. It's because of the cost of living crisis," said co-owner of Woodfield Animal Sanctuary, Robbie Bartington. "Lots of dog homes are full, we take-in dogs but we don't have kennels [so can't take many]. People's changing circumstances mean they're trying to rehome their dogs - we've had eight calls [asking us to take their dogs] in the last two days and we were getting five or six phone calls a day asking the same thing before that."

"Cat owners also can't afford to keep their cats," Robbie said. "And during the pandemic, more people got dogs and puppies, but now people don't want them anymore. We're trying hard to rehome them, but more keep being abandoned."

Meanwhile, in Cardiff, staff at a Cardiff council-run facility that takes in stray, abandoned and unwanted dogs from across Cardiff and parts of the Vale of Glamorgan says it has seen a "significant increase" in the number of dogs being taken to the facility in recent weeks, due to people returning to the workplace and no longer having the time they had during the lockdowns to care for their pooches and people being unable to afford to keep their pets, amid the cost of living crisis

"It is a double-edged sword and the effects are being felt up and down the country. There are 44 kennels on-site at Cardiff Dogs Home and they are all full, we are regularly over capacity and have dogs in our vet room or office as there is simple no kennel space available. There is also a waiting list of dogs due to come in from owners who are no longer able to keep them, this could be due to difficulties with behaviour or that they are simply unable to afford to keep them," a spokesperson for Cardiff Dogs Home said.

"Most places up and down the country are full and at breaking point. Not only are kennels full but costs are increasing dramatically too. In the last five months we have already spent the same amount on veterinary fees as we did in the previous financial year - so in reality we are looking at our veterinary fees being more than double this year."

Sharing a real-life example of an owner feeling forced to give up their dog due to increased costs, a spokesperson at Cardiff Dogs Home said: “An example of how we are being affected by the cost of living crisis is the story of Olive. Olive came to us after her vets reached out to us for help - Olive had badly broken her leg and needed over £4,380 worth of treatment to get her fit and healthy again.

"As Olive’s owner was unable to afford the cost of the surgery and did not have insurance, he requested she was put to sleep. Olive was just seven-months-old with her whole life ahead of her. When we were asked if we could help to spare her life of course we said yes! We arranged for her to have the specialist surgery required [through our partner charity The Rescue Hotel] and nursed her through her recuperation post-surgery. Olive has now been signed off by the vet with a clean bill of health and is currently on her home trial to be adopted soon."

With this story in mind, Cardiff Dogs Home advises pet owners to purchase insurance for their pets. "We appreciate that due to the rising cost of living it can be tempting to cancel insurance policies as a way to cut back on monthly outgoings but it really is a vital expense that has to be considered when deciding to bring a dog into your home. If you are struggling with the cost of keeping your pet it doesn't make you a bad owner, it just makes you a pet owner going through an incredibly difficult time at the moment."

Staff at Hope Rescue, a rescue centre in Llanharan, Rhondda Cynon Taf that saves stray and abandoned dogs across the south Wales region, say they have "stark concerns" around the sharp rise in the number of dogs that have come into their care in recent months.

They believe the increase has been fuelled by people who adopted dogs when they were furloughed or working-from-home and are now returning to the workplace and no longer have the time to care for their dog, and due to the cost of living crisis.

Founder of Hope Rescue, Vanessa Waddon said: "We recognise that we’re not the only animal welfare charity struggling with this problem right now. Many rescues across Wales are reporting the same issues and simply cannot keep up with the demand.

"What's concerning us the most is the fact we can quite literally see a system that’s already bowing under the constant pressure of abandoned dogs coming in – with owners often lying and claiming they are strays - and a significant increase in responsible but desperate owners pleading with us to take their dogs in as surrenders on a daily basis. This is before we even consider the huge spike in dogs we’re taking in that have been seized from illegal and low welfare breeders who capitalised on the boom in demand."

Head of welfare and adoption, Sara Rosser added: "It's so sad to hear owners pleading with us to take their dogs because they can no longer care for them for genuine reasons. We are trying our hardest to work through our waiting list, but often there is nothing we can do because we’re at capacity already with abandoned, stray and seized dogs.

"We know we’re seeing a number of fake strays come into our care because quite simply, we are being told by neighbours and friends that they recognise the stray dogs we post on our social media pages or they send us adverts of the dogs being advertised for sale the day before. It’s a very difficult and sad time for a lot of people we fear."

Dogs Trust, which has two rehoming centres in Wales (one in Bridgend and one in Cardiff) says 37% of dog owners in Wales think it's now more difficult to give their dog all they need, compared to before the cost of living crisis began.

The dog welfare charity agrees with other animal homes in Wales that increasing food costs and bills are leaving "many dog owners unable to provide for their dogs".

Plus, adoption numbers are decreasing as many people can’t afford to take-on a new dog – so the UK could be looking at a "housing crisis for the nation’s dogs," a spokesperson said. "There’s been a notable increase in the number of people calling in for financial reasons, citing problems such as huge increases in their regular monthly bills, such as energy and mortgage payments, as the reason why they can no longer afford doggy basics such as food, which has also itself increased in price.

"Vet bills continued to cause the most worry; 51% of dog owners in Wales said vet bills were currently their biggest financial canine concern for the coming year. 17% were most worried about the cost of dog food, while 23% named insurance as their lead worry."