Cat found in Luton Bedfordshire Image RSPCA

Charity fears impact of financial downturn will see owners dumping pets

The RSPCA is bracing itself for a surge in abandoned animals and it fears the fallout from the COVID crisis could see more owners struggling to keep their pets.

Typically, the charity sees abandonment peak in the summer months. Between June and August 2019, 16,519 animals were reported abandoned to the RSPCA which accounts for 30% of all animals reported abandoned that year.

During the summer months last year the charity received 138 reports about dumped animals in Bedfordshire.

The RSPCA is braced for an even bigger impact this summer following the easing of lockdown and the financial impact on the coronavirus pandemic.

During the three months since lockdown began, the RSPCA said it had received reports about 3,492 abandoned animals. This includes 1,509 dogs, 1,165 cats, 299 small furries such as hamsters, guinea pigs and ferrets and 275 exotic pets. The average is around 40 calls a day.

Dermot Murphy, head of the RSPCA’s animal rescue teams, said:

“During lockdown we’ve seen pets become a source of comfort and support for people and it appears many people have taken on new animals.

“Fortunately during this time we’ve dealt with fewer abandoned pets however we are worried that as lockdown eases, people return to work, go on holidays or struggle financially we will be facing a massive surge of animal abandonments.

“Sadly summer tends to bring with it a surge in abandoned animals. We don’t know why but it may be a combination of the warmer weather making people feel less guilty about dumping a pet to fend for themselves and people doing away on holiday abandoning pets instead of arranging care for them.”

Cat and five kittens on Mother’s Day in Luton

RSPCA rescue teams have been working throughout lockdown after being classified as essential key workers. The charity said that the numbers of animals it cares for has risen by more than 1,500 to 5,600 during the pandemic.

One of the abandonment incidents the RSPCA dealt with last year involved the rescue of a mum cat and her five kittens on Mother’s Day, after she gave birth to the litter among a pile of rubbish in an underground area near to a hotel in Adelaide Street, Luton.

A member of the public had heard a faint sound of meowing near the area. When they went to investigate they discovered the mum and her kittens, which had clearly only just been born.

An RSPCA officer attended who found that mum was very friendly. Unfortunately, she was not microchipped.

The family was taken to RSPCA Blackberry Farm to be cared for by dedicated staff. Mum and kittens have all since been re-homed to loving new families. Dermot said:

“This is the toughest year yet for the RSPCA despite the huge challenges, our amazing teams have been continuing to rescue animals throughout this crisis.

“I’d urge anyone struggling with their pet to ask for help. Animals have been there to help us through the crisis, please don’t abandon them now.”

What people can do if they’re struggling to care for their pets

  • Ask friends and family for help
  • Contact your vet about payment plans, discounts or vouchers for neutering or any other treatment needed
  • Get in touch with local rehoming charities for advice
  • Visit the RSPCA website for welfare advice

To help the RSPCA continue to rescue animals that have been abandoned this summer, please visit RSPCA abandonments

The RSPCA has launched a summer emergency appeal to help it to continue its rescue work, click here for more information on how to donate.