Animal abandonments hit THREE YEAR HIGH as RSPCA warns of ‘winter crisis’

Animal abandonment incidents have soared to a shocking three year high as the RSPCA warns that unwanted pets face a bleak winter.

The animal welfare charity has today (22 November) released startling new statistics that show abandonments have been spiralling amid the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Already this year, up to the end of October, the animal welfare charity has received 17,838 reports of abandoned animals – which, if such trends continue, would equate to 21,417 reports over 2023.

This compares with 16,118 reports during the whole of 2020, meaning the RSPCA is on course to see an eye-watering 32.9% rise in abandonment calls this year.

It’s higher too than the number of reports received in 2021 (17,179) and 2022 (19,645).

In October alone, 1,800 incidents of abandonment were reported to the RSPCA – higher than the number in that month in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Shockingly, the number of calls reported last month was 48.1% more than in October 2020 (1,215).

Abandonment incidents reported to the RSPCA, England and Wales




2023 YTD
(to 31 Oct)

2023 projected

% rise, 2020 v 2023






32.9% rise

The charity fears the ongoing cost of living crisis – coupled with a surge in pet ownership during Covid-19 restrictions – has created a “perfect storm” for animal welfare emergencies, which has led to the shocking rise in abandoned pets.

Dermot Murphy, RSPCA inspectorate commissioner, said: “The combined effects of the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis has created a perfect storm – and means we expect more animals than ever will need our help this year.

“Abandonment calls to our emergency line are now at a three-year high, as we respond to an increasing number of animals being given up and dumped.

“Behind these shocking statistics are thousands of vulnerable animals. Each one is a valuable life in urgent need of our help.

“We’re desperately concerned about the coming winter months – abandonments have soared and many rescue centres are full to bursting, so we are facing an unprecedented winter crisis.

“Our rescue teams are set to be busier than ever this Christmas – so we need animal lovers to Join the Christmas Rescue and donate to help us be there for animals in desperate need as abandonment soars.”

Now in a happy and loving home, mum and daughter, Sheila and Stella, are just two of the many abandoned animals who have had their lives transformed since they were rescued by the RSPCA in East Anglia.

The cats were found underweight and hungry, after being abandoned in filthy conditions with no food and water close to Christmas.

RSPCA inspector Amy Pellegrini said: “After the call came in I rushed to a flat to find four cats in desperate need of help. The scratches at the door and the loud noises the cats were making told me they were starving.

“It was clear no one had been visiting them to feed them. I pushed some pouches of cat food through the letterbox and they pounced on them in desperation. Thankfully, I was able to gain access and get the cats to safety, and with time, our prosecution team made sure their former owner was brought to justice.

“The rescue was just the beginning for Sheila and Stella. Once I’d removed them from the flat and given them a good meal, I took them to our RSPCA East Norfolk Branch. The search began to find them a new home and they soon met their perfect match.”

Adopted together, this mother and daughter pair now spend their time lounging on a bed, enjoying treats and endless fuss with their new owner. Two other cats, Tom and Barbra, were also found loving homes after their rescue.

Watch Shiela and Stella’s story on the RSPCA YouTube page here – warning this contains distressing footage.

Dermot added: “For nearly 200 years, the RSPCA has been working tirelessly to bring animals to safety and give them the expert treatment and compassion they deserve.

“We’ll continue to do so for as long as we’re needed but we can’t do that without the support of fellow animal lovers. Together, we could save more lives.

“The support of the public helps neglected and abandoned animals in so many ways – from buying soft, warm bedding and nourishing food for an animal who’s desperately cold and hungry, to funding vital vet care for an animal who is suffering and in pain.”

This year the RSPCA is asking supporters to Join the Christmas Rescue by donating to help rescue teams reach the thousands of animals who desperately need them.

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