Pets becoming silent victims of recession
LOOKING at those caramel-coloured eyed and oversized, puppy paws it is hard to believe Forest doesn't have a proper home to go to.
A springy, eager-to-please little chap with a soft spot for a ball game, he would bring lot of fun to any family set-up.
But, like thousands of other pets, Forest finds himself in a rescue centre, rather than in the midst of a happy family melee.
One of the lucky ones though, the appealing two-year-old is being cared for by the dedicated staff and volunteers at Penllergaer's RSPCA Llys Nini and he is likely to find a new permanent home in no time.
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But as the recession bites it seems man's best friend is getting the cold shoulder, as owners are making harsh decisions, when forced to find savings on the household budget.
With the cost of caring for a pet hovering around the £9,000-plus per year mark when you tot up food, jabs, vets bills and kennel fees, many cash-strapped families are letting their four-legged companions go.
Figures out yesterday revealed more than 100 pets are being abandoned every week as families can no longer afford to look after them.
The RSPCA says it is finding it harder to rehome abandoned pets, with 12,711 dogs rehomed in 2011, compared with 16,659 in 2009.
In 2011 only 29,880 cats were re-homed, fewer than the 36,070 cats who found new owners two years earlier.
The average stay for a dog in the year so far is 59 days, five more than last year and their average cost of stay has risen from £810 to £885.
Cats have also averaged stays of 59 days this year — four more days than in 2011 — and the average cost of their stay has risen to £554.60 from £517.
Gavin Grant, CEO of the RSPCA, says as a result charities are being overwhelmed with animals in dire need, stretching them to breaking point – all at a time when public generosity is under real pressure.
He adds: "The recession may be over but these are very dark times for its silent victims, the animals. They have never needed our help so desperately.
"Preventing cruelty and helping the animals most in need are the RSPCA's absolute priorities but the number of abused and abandoned animals is soaring."
He adds: "Despite the immense dedication of our staff and volunteers, we are struggling to cope.
"We really need our country's animal lovers to step forward and open their hearts, homes and purses in these extremely difficult times."
More than 100 pets are being abandoned every day in Britain, with the numbers of dogs and cats being rejected up 65 per cent from 2007, with 40,595 dumped last year alone.
While we may see ourselves as a nation of animal lovers, the beseeching faces of Forest, Bruno, Lexi, Max and Chunk at Llys Nini tell a different story.
Last month the Penllergaer branch found itself overwhelmed by an influx of kittens, many of which were found abandoned in pretty nasty circumstances.
One had been shut in a box and chucked in a rubbish bin.
Though luckily for him he was found half an hour before the bins were due to be collected.
Others had been thrown into a river, or dumped in a plastic bag and hung from a tree.
Llys Nini director Sally Hyman spoke of the centre being "overrun" with unwanted kittens and said they were struggling to cope with the numbers.
"The cattery is so full that staff and volunteers are having to take kittens home at night and bring them into work in the day."
Being responsible pet owners is the key to slowing down these escalating rescue numbers, she adds.
"The problem is that people will not get their cats neutered to prevent unwanted kittens, and then when the kittens arrive they don't know what to do with them and just abandon them."
There is no need for things to go that far, she says.
"We can help. We can supply free cat neutering vouchers to people in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot to get cats neutered. We can even micro-chip their pet for just £10, so lost pets can be returned to owners.
Long-term volunteer at the site and former social worker Judith Griffiths says it is always upsetting to have to deal with some of the cases she sees.
"Having been here for a number of years, it is not surprising because I have become accustomed to it. But it is sad that we have puppies left in a box at the gate and we often have cats just dumped at the gate to be picked up. I think people are too embarrassed to bring them in. But we are not here to be judgmental, it is our job to make sure that the animals get the proper care they need."
Not only have intake numbers soared, the number of families willing to take them in has dropped and the charity's running costs have risen by 8 per cent from £111million to £120million since 2007, too.
"We are appealing to people thinking of getting a pet to get one from a rescue centre and not a breeder," Ms Hyman said.
See our pet of the week, It's Saturday, tomorrow.