Scotland’s leading animal welfare charity has warned of a rise in people facing the “heart-breaking” decision to give up their pets as a result of the cost of living crisis.
The Scottish SPCA said more that 4,000 calls were made to its helpline last year from people seeking advice about giving up their pet.
The number is three times higher than in 2021.
Financial issues including food and vet bills were cited as the main issue for the majority of callers.
Some pet owners were having to choose between feeding themselves or their animal and were considering giving their pet up as the cost of living gets harder.
It comes after the SSPCA launched Pet Aid last August, which provides vital pet supplies to people when they are most at need.
The service works in partnership with food banks and community projects and is now available at 35 locations across Scotland.
Scottish SPCA chief executive Kirsteen Campbell said: “Through our animal helpline and inspectors, the Scottish SPCA has a unique insight into the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on people and their pets.
“Last year we saw first-hand how people were having to choose between feeding themselves or their animal, or making the heart-breaking decision to give their pet up.”
She added: “The best thing for animal welfare is to keep a human and a pet together, and that’s what our overriding ambition is through this crisis.”
The Scottish SPCA said 2022 was “one of the most challenging’ in its 183-year history”.
It said it has been stretched to its limit as the cost of living crisis, ability to pay vet bills and the low-welfare pet trade drove animal welfare issues in Scotland last year.
Animal rescue officers and inspectors responded to 86,078 reports of animals in need in 2022, more than 235 per day.
This included helping more than 13,000 dogs, almost 8,000 cats and more than 3,000 hedgehogs.
The charity’s animal rescue and rehoming centres rehomed 3,434 animals.
It also plans to expand its fostering service this year to rehome more pets.
Ms Campbell said: “One of the cruellest aspect of the cost of living crisis has been that we’ve had to take more animals in, whilst finding it harder to rehome them due to people’s weariness to take on an animal during such an uncertain time.
“We piloted a fostering service in summer 2022, and we will be expanding this throughout 2023 to get animals into the right environment quickly, and maximise use of the free space we have to get animals who really need help into our care.
“This service is in the spirit of doing the best we possibly can for animals as we navigate the current economic and societal challenges.”
The Scottish SPCA also spearheads efforts to tackle organised crime in animal welfare in Scotland.
During 2022, the charity launched 124 investigations into the puppy trade, 52 investigations into the illegal ear cropping of dogs and 72 probes into animal fighting and badger baiting.
The charity urged anyone struggling to care for an animal to call the Scottish SPCA’s confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999 for advice and support.