Mark Lyttleton: The Impact of the Cost of Living Crisis on Dog Owners

Mark Lyttleton is an experienced business mentor and angel investor and a long time supporter of Dogs Trust. This article will look at how the current cost of living crisis is affecting families in the UK and impacting the ability of dog owners to adequately care for their pets.

According to Dogs Trust, the cost of living crisis is hitting dog owners across the UK hard. Meanwhile, adoption numbers are falling as people tighten their belts in the face of a potential housing crisis, deciding that they simply cannot afford to take on a new dog.

Interest rate hikes and soaring energy prices have triggered inflation, with the cost of essentials like filling fuel tanks, heating homes and even just eating skyrocketing. Against this backdrop, not only are many families deciding against getting a dog but existing pet owners are struggling to provide for their beloved pets. Because of this, Dogs Trusts reports that it has received an unprecedented number of enquiries from pet owners who have run out of options and are desperate for help.

In July 2022, Dogs Trust reports that it received 4,370 enquiries from dog owners facing the prospect of giving up their dog in that month alone, representing the highest level since its records began. In the face of a huge increase in the cost of everyday living, record numbers of dog owners are struggling to care for their dogs. They are now finding that they can no longer afford the bare necessities of pet ownership, such as vets bills and even just pet food, which have increased significantly in price.

A YouGov poll of UK dog owners revealed that a staggering 48% agreed that they would find giving their dog all they needed more difficult compared to before the cost-of-living crisis. 48% of dog owners cited vet bills as their biggest pet-related financial concern for the coming year, with 23% most worried about dog food and 14% naming insurance as their biggest worry. Meanwhile, 61% of non-dog owners agreed that the rising cost of living would prevent them from buying or adopting a dog.

Owen Sharp is the CEO of Dogs Trust. He points out that the UK is heading towards a situation in which it will have a surplus of dogs. Nevertheless, with a deficit in people who can afford to give a home to a new dog, the outlook appears bleak. Mr Sharp said that although the charity could not promise miracles, Dogs Trust is always there to listen without judgement, talking through the options and giving dog owners the benefit of its knowledge.

Rising to this huge challenge, Dogs Trust is supporting dog owners, helping however it can during this difficult time. The charity has opened pet food banks at many of its rehoming centres to support people struggling to feed their dog. In addition, Dogs Trust is also supporting owners with discounted behaviour training, providing subsidised classes for those who need help with their dog’s behaviour or training and need financial assistance. Dogs Trust has made an urgent appeal to people with space in their homes for dogs that find it more difficult to find a home, such as dogs that are not house trained, big dogs and dogs with challenging behaviour.

The Dogs Trust Pet Food Bank scheme is operational at many rehoming centres, helping those who are struggling to feed their dogs. Dogs Trust Pet Food Bank locations include:

  • Ballymena –  Northern Ireland
  • Glasgow – Scotland
  • Cardiff – Wales
  • Basildon and Colchester – Essex
  • Canterbury and Maidstone – Kent
  • Darlington – County Durham
  • Harefield – London
  • Lewknor – Oxfordshire
  • Merseyside – Liverpool
  • Newbury – Berkshire
  • Penrith – Cumbria
  • Salisbury – Wiltshire
  • Snetterton – Norfolk
  • Shoreham –  West Sussex

In order to support dog owners struggling with the current economic climate, Dogs Trust recently called upon the UK government to pause VAT on both vet services and pet food. Dogs Trust’s ‘Paws the VAT’ campaign calls for VAT exemption on all pet food and veterinary services and medicines for a 12-month period in order to ease financial pressures on pet owners and help more dogs stay with their loving families where they belong.

Dogs Trust warns that, with prices rapidly increasing, the UK is heading towards an animal welfare crisis, with 31% of dog owners worried about the cost of caring for their pet in the coming year. 54% of respondents agreed that managing vet bills would ease their concerns about taking care of their dog, while 43% said that removing VAT on pet food would help.

Inundated with desperate calls from dog owners struggling to provide for their pet, Dogs Trust has called upon the UK Government to take urgent action. The charity received more than 50,000 enquiries from owners who could no longer afford to take care of their pets in 2022 and warns that this devastating situation could get worse if the government does not take urgent action.



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