Page last updated at 17:37 GMT, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 18:37 UK

Dogs abandoned as recession bites

By Tom Hensby
BBC News

Dog peering from doorway. Photo: Andy Catterall/Dog's Trust
Charities say increased numbers of dogs are being given up for rehoming

It may not only be the average UK citizen feeling the bite in these straitened times, according to a new report.

The country's dogs are also suffering, the Audit Commission suggests, as their hard-up owners increasingly turn them out onto the streets.

And the watchdog's latest report suggests a so-called second wave of recession might prompt more dogs to be abandoned.

Animal welfare charities around the country are already reporting recent rises in strays and unwanted dogs arriving at their doors.

Caring for a dog can cost well over £1,000 a year, and as owners are forced to tighten their belts, getting rid of the family pet can be seen as a big saving.

"It's the first thing that people are chopping off their budget list," said a spokeswoman for the Mayhew Animal Home, in north-west London.

It has seen a 20% rise in dogs admitted for rehoming compared to last year, she said.

All of the rescuers are overloaded with Staffordshire Bull Terriers - people just don't want them
Mavis Goodrich, Sheffield Dog Rescue manager

The Blue Cross animal welfare charity has also seen a big rise in the number of dogs abandoned at their centres or given up by their owners for financial reasons. A total of 50 dogs arriving at the charity from January to July 2009 fell into this category, compared with just 22 in the same period in 2008.

Mavis Goodrich, manager of Sheffield Dog Rescue, recalled taking in five dogs in just one day.

The centre usually holds just 15 dogs, but is currently trying to find homes for 19.

She said it was larger breeds that have been worst affected, in particular Staffordshire bull terriers, once a fighting dog.

"All of the rescuers are overloaded with Staffordshire Bull Terriers. People just don't want them," she said.

"If I had just small bitches, I wouldn't have a problem finding houses for them."

Cheaper option

The Dogs Trust charity suggested the recent rises may be a sign of a reversal in a long-term downward trend in the number of stray dogs in the UK.

Its figures showed there were fewer stray dogs last year than a decade ago, down from 135,000 in 1998 to about 96,900 in 2008, which it attributes to successful neutering and microchipping campaigns.

The Dogs Trust said the average dog owner should expect to spend about £330 a year for vaccinations, medical treatment and insurance on top of about £800 for other costs including food, grooming and kennel boarding.

David Ewing, manager of Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, said he has seen more dogs recently which were ill or had not been vaccinated, as dog owners sought to avoid veterinary bills.

"This means that our medical costs have gone up over the last couple of months," he added.

There is evidence too however that the recession has brought some good fortune to dogs.

Battersea Dogs and Cats home reported a 20% increase in the number of animals rehomed this year, as people saw rescue pets as a cheaper option than buying from a specialist breeder or a pet shop.

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Battersea rescues more stray dogs
11 Feb 09 |  London
Shelter struggles with stray dogs
22 Jan 09 |  West Midlands

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