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New joint report with RSPCA finds cost of living crisis is biggest threat to animal welfare

A fluffy brown rabbit sitting on a table

We have collaborated with the RSPCA on a new Animal Kindness Index which shows the biggest threat to animals in the UK is the cost of living crisis.

The report, based on a YouGov survey of more than 4,000 UK adults*, found that animal welfare is one of the top most important issues for people, that over two-thirds of the public describe themselves as ‘animal-lovers’, and that 75% of people said they’d carried out an act of kindness for animals in the past.

However, the report also revealed that the rising cost of living and the cost of pet ownership could threaten the welfare of our pets, with 72% of UK pet owners saying they think the cost of living will impact their animals, almost 70% expressing concern about the cost of care, and a fifth worried about how they’ll afford to feed their pets.

While we have not yet seen an increase in calls from people struggling to afford the cost of their pet, we are seeing an increase in certain animals coming in to our care. The number of dogs arriving at our centres in the first quarter of 2022 has increased by 15% versus the same period in the previous year and rabbits have increased by 12%. Worryingly, the number of rabbits being abandoned has also increased by 222% from nine in 2021 to 29 in 2022.

Gilly Mendes Ferreira, head of innovation and strategic relations, said, “The research carried out by the RSPCA as part of their Animal Kindness Index is vital for us to understand key animal welfare trends and the Scottish SPCA is proud to have played a part in the development of this index.

“We have been lucky so far that we have not seen much of an impact on our services from the cost of living crisis but we are under no illusions. We know Scotland is a nation of animal lovers and people will do their best to keep their animals with them, even in the toughest of times. However, we fully expect to see a rise in pet owners who are unable to care for their animals or afford veterinary bills in the coming months due to rising costs.

“We have seen an increase in rabbits coming in to our care and being abandoned. We are concerned that this may have been a knock on effect from lockdown where people have taken on what they believed to be an ‘easy’ pet compared to a dog or cat and are now struggling with the reality of caring for quite a complex animal.

“A key part of our 10-year strategy is to reduce unintentional cruelty by 50% by 2032. We can only do this by working with partners like the RSPCA to understand the issues impacting pet owners across Scotland and finding ways to support them.”

One such animal who found themselves in our care is Kiara the rabbit, who arrived at our Aberdeenshire Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre after she was found straying.

However, it is suspected that she had actually been abandoned as her nails were overgrown and her coat was matted. Despite this, she was a good weight, suggesting she had been fed regularly.

Due to her long coat it is possible that her care became too much for her previous owners.

The Aberdeenshire centre has cared for 647 animals in the first half of 2022 alone and is now almost at capacity.

Emma Slawinski, director of advocacy and policy at the RSPCA, said: “It’s great that our research has confirmed we are a nation of animal lovers, however we cannot ignore the stark findings that the cost of living crisis is the biggest single threat to pets in the UK today.

“We are on the brink of an animal welfare crisis due to the rise in pet ownership during the pandemic, coupled with the cost of living pressures biting - especially those on lower incomes. It’s absolutely heart-breaking.

“We’re starting to see the knock-on effects of this as we, and other charities, predicted. Tragically we’re starting to see an increase in the abandonment of pets and growing numbers of cats and rabbits being rescued and coming into our care.

“The RSPCA and Scottish SPCA prioritise animals most in need and would urge any struggling pet owners to seek help to address problems at the earliest opportunity so that problems do not spiral out of control.”

If you have concerns about an animal, or need advice on caring for your pet, contact our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999. You can help your local centre provide for the animals in their care by donating to their Amazon wishlist here:




If anyone is concerned about an animal, please do not hesitate to contact our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999.

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