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Pet victims of credit crunch

PUBLISHED: 14:31 05 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:41 03 July 2010

FEARS are rising that a growing number of unwanted pets could be dumped in the streets and fields of East Anglia as the credit crunch bites into family budgets and full-up animal rescue centres cannot cope with a new wave of outcasts.

FEARS are rising that a growing number of unwanted pets could be dumped in the streets and fields of East Anglia as the credit crunch bites into family budgets and full-up animal rescue centres cannot cope with a new wave of outcasts.

Households across the nation are tightening the purse strings and many are facing the heartbreak decision of getting rid of dogs, cats, rabbits and horses to free up extra money to make ends meet.

But across the region, animal rescue centres which already have waiting lists to house pets, are finding it hard to help - because the recession means fewer people are coming forward to re-home animals, and fund-raising is also being hit.

It has brought warnings that it could result in feral dogs running wild, while one Norfolk sanctuary is teaming up with a council to target people fuelling the problem by home-breeding dogs in a bid to generate more cash for their hard-pressed finances.

The Faith Animal Rescue Centre at Hickling is full with more than 40 dogs, the same number of cats, and a waiting list to take in dogs which could be up to three months, said founder Judy Simmance.

She was also noticing a rise in strays, which matched the dogs people had phoned about earlier - indicating people were dumping them because of the “bed blocked” centres.

There was a particular surge in Staffordshire terriers, with people seemingly breeding puppies to earn extra cash.

But she is teaming up with Norwich City Council in the spring to offer a free neutering service for pets in council houses, alongside a campaign threatening withdrawal of benefits and eviction if people are found to be breeding for profit from their homes.

Other centres around the county, and the RSPCA, also say they are handling more calls from people wanting to get rid of unwanted pets, or seeking advice on how to manage the cost of keeping them.

George Rockingham of the Pact Animal Sanctuary at Wood Rising near Hingham said the situation was the toughest it had been since he set up the centre with wife Christine 14 years ago.

“We are getting four or five calls a day from people wanting us to re-home pets, but we having to turn people away because there is no room,” said Mr Rockingham, who feared desperate owners would just dump dogs - as happened with a pack of terriers abandoned near Newton Flotman just before Christmas.

“My fear is that we will get the situation where we have feral dogs like we have feral cats. It happens in some countries such as Sri Lanka, Spain and Portugal, but it has not happened here since the Middle Ages,” he added.

His home was full with 600 animals from hamsters to horses, and took £600 a day to run.

The credit crunch was hitting the number of people coming forward to take on pets, but fund-raising was also a battle.

“People are not giving as much. A typical £400 collection can now be down to £250. They have not got the spare cash in their pockets, but they are still going out and doing sponsored events instead because they want to help,” said Mr Rockingham.

Pact was hitting back by upping the number of collections it did, though that stretched the resources of its volunteers, and was also aiming to expand its chain of charity stores.

The RSPCA had not noticed a major surge in abandonments at its centres, but was fielding more calls for help and advice.

A spokesman said: “We are pleased people are calling for guidance on ways to keep their pets rather than abandoning them.”

With a dog or cat each estimated to cost just under £10,000 in its lifetime, it was essential people did not take on animals unless they could afford to, he added.

Anyone who can help Pact with re-homing or fund-raising should contact them on 01362 820775.

Faith are on 01692 598312, Castaways on 01362 850611, and the RSPCA advice line is 0300 1234 999.


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