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Sick pets dumped on Norwich streets

PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:19 06 July 2010

A rising number of sick pets are being dumped on the streets as recession-hit families struggle to afford vets' bills.

Already stretched rescue centres and charities are not only having to cope with more unwanted animals - but also nurse them back to health, which is adding to their costs.

A rising number of sick pets are being dumped on the streets as recession-hit families struggle to afford vets' bills.

Already stretched rescue centres and charities are not only having to cope with more unwanted animals - but also nurse them back to health, which is adding to their costs.

And the problem is being fuelled by uncontrolled breeding of pets by families hoping to bolster their dwindling incomes, then abandoning animals they cannot sell.

In Norwich alone 400 strays were picked up from the streets and parks last year by city council dog wardens.

Nationally the RSPCA says the number of abandoned animals has soared by more than 50pc, with the credit crunch a major factor behind the rise.

At the weekend a north Norfolk boarding kennel which helps house some of the Norwich strays, held an open day to seek new homes for them.

City dog warden Moira Ross-Dempster said the overall numbers of strays fluctuated but there was a definite trend towards more sick dogs showing up because owners could not face veterinary bills.

“People take their pets to the vets, get a shock at the cost and the dogs end up on the streets.”

Strays, which are the responsibility of local councils, had anything from broken bones to flea allergies that needed treating - along with doing the routine jabs, neutering, and micro-chipping - before they could be re-homed.

RSPCA spokesman Rob Harris said the rise in abandonments came at a time when the charity was also facing its own financial pressures in the recession.

He urged people struggling to cope with a dog not to dump it on the streets, but call the RSPCA for advice - ranging from pet insurance - where payments of £15-20 a month could help cope with a big vets' bill - to ways of cutting down the cost of pet ownership including feed.

The Pact animal sanctuary at Wood Rising near Dereham agreed there was a growing number of sick strays - including cats as well as dogs.

They included several cats with over-active thyroids which needed daily tablets that owners could not afford.

A litter of poorly kittens with cat flu were taken to a vets by their owner to be put to sleep, but were passed on to the centre and were making a good recovery.

The charity was having to cope with the extra costs at a time when its street collections were bringing in half the sums they used to, said Mrs Rockingham.

“It is a double whammy - with more work and lower donations. We have been helped by expanding our charity shops - and had to use bank loans put aside for building improvements.

“Our staff are working longer hours without a pay rise, and some volunteers have stopped coming because they cannot afford the petrol.”

Even smaller animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and rats were being abandoned by families who could not cope.

Animal rescue centres struggled to cope with the number of strays even when the economic climate was good said Leigh Assinder manager of the Faith centre at Hickling.

“There are more strays than homes even in the good times. In harder times it is worse still.”

All the centres agreed that much of the problem was down to too many dogs being bred - often by people who thought it was a quick way of raising easy money, then struggling to sell the puppies and abandoning them.

The open day at the Norstead kennels in North Walsham had several happy endings, including the Sayer family from Hellesdon, who recently lost their boxer, agreeing to take Cleo, a three-year-old Staffordshire cross, after she enjoyed being fussed by the grandchildren.

Pamela Sayer said: “It is sad when dogs end up on the streets and are not taken to rescue centres by their owners.”

Kennel co-owner Annie Masters added: “People who abandon dogs make me angry. We have had dogs with 60pc burns and broken bones, arthritis and sight problems. Dogs don't deserve it, but they still love people.”

Call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 555, Faith on 01692 598312, or Pact on 01362 821511.

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