Animal welfare

PAWS: Rising cost of living leads to animal welfare crisis as people abandon their pets

Animal charity PAWS has expressed fears that an animal welfare crisis could be caused by rising rates of pet ownership colliding with cost of living pressures.

The charity is seeing an increase in the number of animals in its care, with many Irish centers already full and others close to capacity, as repatriation slows and more people seek to give up their pets.

The Tipperary-based charity, which rescues and rehomes abandoned dogs from across Ireland, has repatriated 126 dogs so far in 2022, up from 191 on the same date in 2021. We currently have 105 dogs in our care and an exceptional veterinary bill of more than €48,000.

“At the heart of what we do is the prevention or alleviation of animal suffering. As many dogs rescued or released to us suffer from disease, accident or even abuse, a necessary part of their care and wellbeing requires veterinary care,” the charity said.

“We received some support through the Covid Employer Wage Subsidy Scheme, but we were not eligible for any other government Covid support, all of which was given to humane charities. This help enabled our small team to operate throughout the pandemic, however, the grant was based on 30% less income than the equivalent period in 2019 (an almost impossible task for charities to predict) and in our case, a few one-time calls and an inheritance mean we were told we were not eligible for certain periods, and we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of having to repay €25,000 of turnover in 2022.”

Recent research from the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADCH) shows that demand for rescue dogs has declined over the past year, while the number of abandoned dogs is higher in 2022 than in 2021 and 2020 Although there seems to be variation in the evidence for cat abandonments, there is strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that there is a similar trend for cats.

Approximately 70% of surveyed ADCH member rescues report an influx of dogs with behavioral issues. This is consistent with studies indicating that inexperienced dog owners abandon dogs they acquired during lockdown and are now unable to care for them, due to a variety of factors.

Anecdotal evidence from members also suggests that there are similar reasons for cat abandonments. This could be for many reasons such as post-lockdown lifestyle changes and increased cost of living which directly affects the ability of owners and new adopters to afford their pet’s care. The charity says it is seeing an increase in abandonments due to owners struggling to pay vet fees and a significant increase in the number of unwanted litters.

“Rescues are now struggling to cope, and we are now at breaking point,” they say.