And now the cost-of-living crisis is forcing families to give up their pets.

The cost-of-living crisis is clearly hitting Australians hard at the moment and forcing a lot of households to make difficult decisions. 

More than half a million Aussies are struggling to put food on the table and rising housing costs are pushing hundreds of thousands of people into significant housing stress. Another unfortunate outcome of the cost-of-living crisis has been the rise in the number of pets that families are surrendering to animal shelters. 

Two weeks ago, RSPCA NSW posted to Facebook that they were at capacity "crisis point" and set about posting photos of the more than 300 animals in their care, in the hopes of attracting adopters online. 

According to ABC News, one South Australian branch of the RSPCA has also been forced to stop accepting private surrenders since March 10, due to reaching capacity with more than 1,400 animals in its care. 

There are a couple of factors playing into this, including the cost of living and rising cost of pet food, as well as owners who may have taken on animals during the COVID lockdowns without consideration for the future implications, who are now finding the responsibility too stressful. The cost of veterinary care has also increased in many clinics due to supply chain issues.

Speaking to Mamamia, RSPCA NSW's head of operations, Bec Bochtler, said that the number of people who are giving up pets due to financial pressures has increased markedly to about 12 per cent of all surrenders. 


Listen to the Quicky's episode about how the cost of living is forcing families to give up their pets. 

On top of this, eight per cent of surrenders right now are due to issues with the rental market, as people are forced to move out of properties due to rental costs and unable to bring their animals with them.

But the cost of living is also hitting the RSPCA in another big way. The organisation is finding that people can't adopt as freely as they could before, and many are more reticent to become pet owners. This means that the time animals are waiting to find owners has stretched out considerably.

"What we've seen is that the length of stay has increased because there's been a 30 per cent decrease in adoptions per month, which works out to 300 animals less a month finding homes," Bochtler said. 

"We're definitely seeing a lot more challenges and a lot more people calling to ask for help – and we're trying to work through alternatives, rather than people surrendering their pets, because we know that pets are better off in homes." 

Bochtler added that the RSPCA offers a range of services to assist people who are struggling with pet ownership. She said that sometimes people simply need to be offered veterinary care or desexing at a reduced cost, or emergency boarding if they are experiencing homelessness or if they are victim survivors of domestic violence.


So, is there anything you can do to reduce the cost of pet ownership if you're struggling?

Dr Sandra Nguyen, a specialist veterinary oncologist from SASH Vets, told Mamamia that when it comes to veterinary treatment, she recommends getting pets to the vet quickly to drive down costs. 

"If your pet starts vomiting or feeling unwell, I'd recommend seeking services sooner rather than later. Say, if they're experiencing a poisoning, it's much less expensive and easier to address it sooner rather than waiting, in which case that animal might need surgery." 

Dr Nguyen also recommends that, where possible, pet owners consider getting pet insurance in case large, unexpected veterinary costs do come up.

However, sometimes these alternatives simply aren't viable for pet owners, and animals have to be surrendered because they can no longer be cared for adequately. These cases, Bochtler says, can be a "traumatic and heartbreaking experience" because it's a last resort and isn't a reflection of a person's capacity to love and care about their pet.

"Surrendering a pet is the last option for many pet owners. These times are incredibly challenging for all, and our team is always here to help people and their animals, in whatever way we can."

Image: Canva.

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