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As the squeeze on household budgets continues, many animal charities are concerned about a surge in lockdown pets being abandoned. From treats to veterinary visits, the rise in living costs has left many pet parents struggling to cover basic needs.
According to the RSPCA’s Bath branch, staff have witnessed owners no longer being able to afford their animals, with 20 dogs waiting for space because they are already at full capacity.
“Pet owners are struggling with rising costs, there’s the cost of food and care and obviously unexpected vet bills as well,” Rachel Jones, who works at the home, told the BBC. “So if there are any future ways we can support rather than animals needing to come into our care then we really want to do that.”
If you bought a pet in lockdown and now can’t afford to keep it, there are lots of ways to seek help. It might be hard, but consider all of the options you have before making a decision. Keep reading for what you can do:
1. Get advice from your vet
Some vets and animal charities can help owners struggling to pay for their veterinary bills, either by providing some of the payment or by offering reduced costs. If you are struggling to afford pet health costs, have an honest conversation with your vet first.
“Your vet should be able to give advice on how best to help your pet but if unable to, there are other options to consider depending on your circumstance and location,” say the RSPCA. “Options can sometimes be offered at a reduced cost, free through some pet insurance providers and your vet may provide treatment directly.”
2. Look for local animal organisations and charities for help
With the cost of living continuing to rise in the UK, dog owners may find themselves struggling to pay for veterinary treatments, dog sitters or even food. If you need some additional help, there are local animal organisations and charities offering help to those struggling.
- The PDSA offer free or subsidised treatment for owners who are on certain benefits (such as housing benefit or council tax support), or situated within the catchment area of a PDSA hospital or clinic
- The RSPCA can provide reduced veterinary costs to pet owners who meet their criteria
- The Blue Cross provides means-tested support to low-income families who live in the catchment area of its clinics
- Dog owners can head to the Dogs Trust for free and subsidised treatments if they are homeless or in a housing crisis. Dogs who are part of the scheme are entitled to free flea and worming treatments, vaccinations, neutering and microchipping. Dogs Trust will also fund most essential and emergency treatment that the dog may need
3. Find your local pet food bank
Pet food banks provide a supply of free pet food to people in financial hardship. Most pet food banks (or collection points at local supermarkets) will offer owners the chance to pick up supplies, including food pouches for both dogs, cats and smaller household pets, tinned pet food, wet pouches, pet accessories such as warm beds and blankets, and pet cleaning supplies.
Food banks include:
- Your local Pets at Home store
- The RSPCA Wimbledon, Wandsworth and Sutton Branch.
- In Scotland, it’s The Pet Food Bank.
- Check social media pages, such as Facebook, to see whether anyone in your local area has opened a food bank
4. Avoid DIY remedies
“Whilst we understand people believe they are trying to help their animals by seeking to treat them at home, what can work for a human is often unsuitable for pets and may even be toxic. Your pet may then end up needing more costly treatment,” says the RSPCA’s chief vet, Caroline Allen.
“There is help and guidance available from the RSPCA website on common ailments seen in pets but your first contact if you have a concern should always be your vet – explain your situation and in many cases they should be able to give you a range of options.”
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