RSPCA WA reports 40 per cent jump in animal surrenders due to cost-of-living, housing crises

Flossy, 12, was surrendered after her owner had become homeless. PIC: RSPCA WA

The cost-of-living and housing crises has taken a toll on Western Australian pet owners with RSPCA WA reporting a 40 per cent jump in surrender requests.

Three hundred and forty-six pet owners asked to surrender their pets to RSPCA WA in the first three months of the year, compared to 240 at the same time last year – a 44 per cent jump. 

Over a third of all requests over the past 18 months were because pet owners could no longer afford to feed or care for their animals, couldn’t find a pet-friendly rental, or had become homeless. 

Executive Manager Animal and Enforcement Operations Hannah Dreaver said the impact of the cost-of living and housing crises on pet owners was gravely concerning. 

“Seeing the cost-of-living and housing crises still contributing so much to our surrender requests is disheartening but not surprising,” she said. 

“Recent victims are Flossy*, a Jack Russell terrier, and her owner Gordon*. Flossy came into our care three weeks ago because Gordon had become homeless and couldn’t access emergency shelter with a dog. 

“As an older man, he had the choice between sleeping rough with 12-year-old Flossy and feeling unsafe for both of them, or having the chance at a bed for the night. 

“What a heartbreaking, awful position to be in. I really feel for Gordon but I’m so glad he reached out and that we could give him some comfort knowing Flossy will be well cared for."

While cost-of-living and lack of pet-friendly rentals continue to represent a third of all surrender requests, there has been a shift in the data.

Recently, more pet owners are surrendering because they can’t find anywhere to live with their pet, rather than being unable to afford their pet’s care. 

“The RSPCA is helping in all situations it can, but we simply can’t accommodate all of the animals submitted for surrender and we are concerned for the welfare of the animals in these ongoing situations,” Ms Dreaver said. 

Most requests relate to dogs, with about half as many for cats, followed by rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and birds. 

Of more than 1,300 respondents to RSPCA WA’s recent annual pet census, 78 per cent said they had noticed an increase in the cost of pet food over the past 12 months and 58 per cent saw an increase in the cost of veterinary services. 

Twenty percent of those respondents said they were buying less expensive pet food and 34 per cent said they were spending less on themselves in order to afford to care for their pet. 

RSPCA WA says it is looking forward to seeing the much-needed rental reforms, introduced by the State Government in November last year, come into effect. 

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