Over three million pets given up for adoption during pandemic, study finds
More than three million households have given up on a pet in the past year, according to new figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA).
The association’s annual report reveals that while 4.7 million households acquired a new pet during the pandemic, around 3.4 million have given up on one since 2021.
Gen Z (those aged 16-24) and Millennials (aged 25-34) accounted for 53% of new pet owners during the pandemic, but they were also the most likely to abandon them.
More than a fifth (23%) of people in these age groups were unable to keep a pet, with 71% of all animals given up for adoption owned by young people.
The pets most often abandoned are dogs (60%) and cats (45%).
Nicole Paley, deputy chief executive of the PFMA, said the numbers were concerning. “We want to investigate why owners abandon their pets and where they are abandoned,” Paley said.
“We believe that many pets are sold to recover funds, in addition to being taken to foster homes.
“We are working closely with the Canine and Feline Sector Group as well as other animal welfare charities to identify what the pet care sector can do to support owners and prevent this from happening. occur.”
The main reason 16-24 year olds gave up a pet was a change in their living conditions, with 34% citing this factor.
Just over a fifth (23%) were unable to keep their pet due to financial difficulties, while 22% mentioned a change in their working arrangements.
Some young pet owners were also concerned about their behavior, with 13% giving up a pet for this reason.
Among millennials, work (41%) and living conditions (39%) were the most common reasons they gave up on their pet.
Last month, the National Dog Survey, conducted by Dogs Trust, found that 23% of dogs currently owned in the UK were acquired during the pandemic.
RSPCA companion animal welfare expert Dr Samantha Graines said the abandonment statistics are “very worrying but not surprising”.
She said the RSPCA has started to see an increase in requests for help and repatriation, but mainly in rabbits.
“Bringing a pet home to join your family is a big commitment and responsibility and the increase in ownership during the pandemic has raised concerns that some people may not have fully considered the possibility of owning a pet. properly care for them for the rest of their lives. “said Seeds.
The charity fears that as people return to normal life after the pandemic, coupled with the rising cost of living, it could see the start of a ‘pet welfare crisis’ .
“We understand that circumstances can change, and sometimes that forces families to make the heartbreaking decision to give up their pets,” Graines said.
“However, we also know that animals are often donated to charity, rehomed or even abandoned because people have taken a pet without the necessary research or appreciation of responsibility and commitment.”
The PFMA findings, based on a survey of nearly 9,000 households across the UK, show that pet ownership is on the rise overall.
In 2022, there were a record 35 million pets in the UK, with 17.4 million households owning at least one.
The most popular choices are dogs (13m), followed by cats (12m) and indoor birds (£1.6m).
Other common choices are hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, pigeons, and horses.