The forgotten victims of the cost-of-living crisis: 28% of pets in the South West at risk of not receiving vital treatment
By Laura Linham
11th Jan 2023 | Local News
Figures from the UKs largest veterinary charity, PDSA, have revealed that more than a quarter (28%) of owners in the South West are worried about affording vet bills – leaving them facing potentially heart-breaking decisions should their pet become ill or injured.
We are a nation of animal lovers – 85% of owners in the South Westi say their pet makes them feel less lonely. But, as the cost of living crisis continues to hit households hard, stats from PDSA show that 11% of South West-based pet owners would consider rehoming their pet if they were unable to afford the treatment needed should they become ill or injured.
PDSA has cautioned that these concerning findings reflect the forgotten victims of the cost-of-living crisis, as prices for essentials such as fuel (diesel - 26%, petrol – 13%), energy (80%) and food (17%) increase. This is only at risk of worsening as we head further into the frosty winter months.
Increasingly stretched finances could be putting UK pets in a potentially fatal situation, with a staggering 930,000ii pets at risk of being put to sleep if their owners were hit with unexpected veterinary bills.
Research found that a third of owners (33%) turning to PDSA for help in October this year said that the cost-of-living crisis was a key factor in registering their pet with the charity, and an overwhelming are 98% concerned how the crisis will affect them and their family. For many, the vital services provided by PDSA are the only difference between keeping their pet with the family, rehoming or euthanising; as owners struggle to choose between eating, heating their home, or treating their pet.
When surveyed, 81% of PDSA clients said they would prioritise paying for their pet's emergency veterinary care over household bills should the situation arise. Meanwhile, 85% would put their pet's need for food and veterinary care over their own needs, such as food or heating.
This comes as the number of people claiming Universal Credit soared by nearly 100,000 between August and October, reaching its highest level of the year in October 2022 – more than 5.7 million people – and the highest number of claims this year.
PDSA Veterinary Surgeon Lynne James said: "The rising cost of living is a cause of real concern for families in the South West, but even more so for the most vulnerable, who often rely on the companionship of a pet – particularly during what can be the coldest and most lonely time of year. More than half of those who rely on PDSA services are aged 55 and over, and 37% are disabled or living with a serious health condition – making our Pet Hospitals a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable owners and their pets.
"In 2021, we treated over 370,000 pets and saved the lives of 134,000 animals – ultimately keeping furry family members united with their owners, which we know is a lifeline for many. As families continue to be stretched financially, demand for our support shows no signs of abating.
"Sadly, it's not always possible to predict when a pet might become unwell or injured, making it extremely difficult for owners to prepare for such an event – especially for the 19% of South West-based owners already living in poverty.
"It's PDSA's mission to keep families together. We would encourage anyone who is struggling to afford the cost of veterinary treatment to find out if they are entitled to access our services by visiting the eligibility checker on our website. We also have lots of free advice on how to reduce the cost of caring for pets, while ensuring they remain healthy and happy."
PDSA relies on donations to deliver vital treatment to hundreds of thousands of pets across its 48 Pet Hospitals in the UK. To keep families together this winter, the charity is urgently calling on the public's support more than ever to prevent vulnerable people having to make a truly heartbreaking decision.
To find out more about PDSA's vital work during the cost-of-living crisis, or to donate, visit www.pdsa.org.uk/costoflovingcrisis.