Overwhelmed Rehoming Centres Plead for Public Support

RSPCA officer with dog

The RSPCA is urging the public to adopt pets rather than buy them, as its rescue centres are overwhelmed, leading to an unsustainable surge in animals being housed in private boarding facilities. This crisis is costing the charity approximately £500,000 a month.

Celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, the RSPCA – the oldest animal welfare charity – is grappling with a mounting ‘animal welfare crisis’ exacerbated by the cost of living. Animals are arriving faster than they can be rehomed, leaving over 1,400 animals in private boarding because RSPCA centres are full.

In the first four months of this year, the charity spent an astonishing £2.1 million on private boarding, with nearly £1.2 million going towards kennelling dogs due to the lack of space in RSPCA centres.

The reliance on private boarding is growing, and the costs are becoming unmanageable. The RSPCA currently has 1,441 animals in private care, including 503 dogs, 126 rabbits, 201 cats, 285 horses, 58 exotic animals, and 126 farm animals. Weekly, this costs around £125,000, with more than £50,000 spent on dogs alone.

Cavalier Spaniel

Karen Colman, Head of Animal Logistics and Welfare Oversight at the RSPCA, said, “As we celebrate our 200th birthday this year, it’s incredible to see how far animal welfare has come since our founding in 1824. But the sad reality is that there’s still so much to do, and we’re currently facing an animal welfare crisis. Our rescue and rehoming centres are at breaking point with the number of animals coming in versus the number being re-homed.

“We currently have 503 dogs waiting to come into our rehoming centres and, while they wait, they’re being cared for by an amazing network of private boarding kennels – but, amid the cost of living crisis, many of these have also had to increase their prices, making it a growing expense for us. The bills we’re facing are mounting every month.

officer with cat

“Sadly, more animals in need are coming into us all the time – many who have been the victims of awful cruelty, abuse, and neglect – and rehoming rates have struggled in recent years as many families feel the pinch of the cost of living crisis and make the decision not to take on a pet.

“We’re launching an urgent appeal to those families who do feel they can commit to the cost and responsibility of a pet to please consider adopting a rescue instead of buying from a breeder or a pet shop. We have hundreds of animals in our care with so much love to give, they just need a chance.”

The cost of living crisis is also impacting pet owners and rescue organisations. Dr Samantha Gaines, Head of the RSPCA Companion Animals Team, noted, “Sadly, we’re seeing more animals coming into our care and more pet owners turning to us for help because of the increasing costs of owning a pet, including the cost of food and vet bills.

“The cost of living has also led to a reduction in the number of people willing to take on an animal as they try to save money, and a recent RSPCA survey found 72% of people were not planning to get a new pet.

“But the crisis is also hitting animal rescue organisations, like the RSPCA. Our food bills have soared, our energy bills to keep the lights and heating on in our centres have also rocketed, and animals are staying with us for longer as fewer people are adopting, which means spaces in our centres are becoming available less often and we need more and more private boarding spaces. It’s quickly becoming a serious welfare crisis.”

The RSPCA has a clear policy against euthanising healthy, rehomeable animals, only resorting to it on veterinary advice to prevent further suffering. The charity is committed to finding loving homes for the animals in its care, regardless of how long it takes.

Carmen Cole from the RSPCA Macclesfield, South East Cheshire and Buxton Branch, highlighted the local struggle: “We have more than 180 owners who have enquired with us as they want to give up their pet, including 55 people with one or more dogs, 50 with cats, and 72 people who can no longer keep their rabbits.

“We’re a small branch of the RSPCA and we’re run entirely by volunteers. We already have 34 animals in our care – some taking up centre spaces and others with fosterers – and we work incredibly hard to help as many animals as possible but, at the moment, the situation is dire and we just don’t have space to help all of the animals who need us.”

The RSPCA has launched a Cost of Living Hub offering advice to pet owners struggling with expenses and a dedicated telephone helpline. Those able to re-home a pet can visit Find A Pet to see available animals. Donations to support the RSPCA’s vital work in rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming animals can be made online.

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