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Fears cost-of-living crisis will see Oldham pet owners abandon animals

With families across Oldham feeling the pinch of increasing costs, leading animal charities have warned that many will be forced to abandon their pets.

The RSPCA has warned that the financial squeeze may leave people unable to afford basic pet care and vet bills, prompting a rise in rehoming services and possible welfare concerns.

But pet surrender is a controversial topic.

Many claim that they would not dream of abandoning their furry family members, but some may have no choice in the face of spiralling costs.

And exacerbating matters is the surge in badly bred puppies which boomed during the pandemic. 

Dena Dessoky, a trustee at Pennine Pen Animal Rescue in Oldham, said that the shelter did notice an influx of ‘pandemic puppies’ being given up when owners returned to the workplace but they have not seen a direct correlation between pet surrender and the cost-of-living crisis.

Ms Dessoky, however, believes it will become another trend over the next few months.

She said: “We have had people say they can’t afford the costs attached to their pets, but the extent of this isn’t known as some people don’t give us the full picture.

“It’s such a shame that people are forced into making that choice as many really don’t want to.

“There are places like the PDSA or Manchester and Cheshire Dogs Home which offer low-cost neutering or vet care, but even low cost isn’t feasible for some people.”

Katja Londa, a trustee and lead vet for StreetPaws, said: “Yes, no doubt people are giving up their pets because they feel they can no longer afford to look after them.

“However, what I see more than that is people going without themselves so that they can take care of their pets.”

The vet who offers mobile vet services through her Saddleworth-based company, PetsRelxed, said most of her clients consider their pets family and will forgo holidays and even meals to afford pet care.

Ms Londa said: “I regularly see people who would rather live on the street than be parted from their dogs.

“I’ve seen people stay outside in sub-zero temperatures because accepting shelter would have meant putting their dog in a kennel somewhere.

“I believe that for every pet that is given up due to financial problems, there are a whole lot more where the family struggles but wouldn’t dream of giving their pet up.”

At the heart of the issue is the prevailing problem of backstreet breeders who sell poorly bred puppies with complex health problems and dangerous behavioural issues.

Lockdown didn’t help the problem as many of the pets suffered from a lack of socialisation and proper training.

Stephany Jayne Marsden, a horse groomer in Saddleworth, said she ended up taking on a ‘lockdown puppy’ from a family who couldn’t cope.

At just one year old, the puppy was attacking to kill other dogs and even children by lunging for the throat and face.

Ms Marsden said her family “lived in hell” with the vicious pet but they couldn’t afford the £5,000 bill to get her behaviour addressed, not to mention the added cost of musculoskeletal issues from being poorly bred.

Eventually, Ms Marsden made the tough decision to surrender the pet to a specialist behaviourist.

Ms Marsden said: “The guilt I felt in the belief that I failed her was overwhelming.

“I couldn’t speak to anyone because of judgement and criticism.”

However, she added that there should be no shame in pet surrender and the blame falls with unscrupulous ‘money grabbing’ breeders in cases such as hers.

Rachel Bean teaches canine first aid around the world.

Rachel Bean, a qualified vet from Saddleworth who teaches canine first aid around the world, also highlighted the rise of lockdown puppies.

Ms Bean said: “The outcome is now that people are returning to full-time work or are feeling the pinch of inflation, these pets are suffering.

“Owners haven’t planned for illness costs, upkeep costs, pet insurance, etcetera.

“Many dogs are suffering with behaviour issues as well because of poor breeding and raising methods”.

She urged prospective pet owners to plan more carefully and choose an animal that is suitable for their lifestyle and budget.

“Stop letting these animals down”, she added.

The Oldham Times: Ms Bean with two of her dogsMs Bean with two of her dogs

A spokeswoman for RSPCA Oldham said that they had already started to see more people contacting them to rehome their pets in the last few months.

She added: “We understand that some people do not want to give up their pets which they have owned for a lengthy time.

“So, where possible, we will support them to be able to keep their much-loved pet in their own home and environment rather than give the animal up for adoption”.

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