PDSA figures have revealed that two million pets are in danger of being torn apart from their families as the cost of living crisis worsens.
The UK’s largest veterinary charity 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.
Increasingly stretched finances could be putting UK pets in a potentially fatal situation, with a staggering 930,000 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 said that the cost-of-living crisis was a key factor in registering their pet with the charity, and an overwhelming 98% concerned about how the crisis will affect them and their family.
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 things such as 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 households across the UK, 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.”
Ms James added: “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 those living in poverty.”