Scottish SPCA have released new figures highlighting their work in 2022, describing the year as ‘one of the most challenging’ in its 183-year history.
Citing the cost-of-living crisis, ability to pay vet bills and the low-welfare pet trade as key drivers of animal welfare issues in Scotland, the charity has been stretched to its limit.
Our free animal helpline fielded over a quarter of a million calls (252,265). Over 4,000 people who called the helpline were to give up their pet, more than three times as many as in 2021. The majority cited financial issues including vet bills as their main issue.
In response to the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on people and pets, we pioneered Pet Aid in August 2022. The service, which works with local foodbanks and community projects across Scotland, is now available in 35 places nationwide. It provides vital pet supplies to people when they need them most. The charity’s inspectors worked directly with pet owners too, providing support to hundreds of people in their own home.
Scottish SPCA chief executive Kirsteen Campbell said: “Through our animal helpline and inspectors, the Scottish SPCA has a unique insight into the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on people and their pets. Last year we saw first-hand how people were having to choose between feeding themselves or their animal, or making the heart-breaking decision to give their pet up.
“Prevention is in our name and Pet Aid allows us to prevent suffering by not only providing food and supplies to those who need it, instead of picking up the pieces after things have gone wrong.
The best thing for animal welfare is to keep a human and a pet together, and that’s what our overriding ambition is through this crisis.”
Rescuing animals in need
Despite the challenging climate, the Scottish SPCA continued their vital work in every community across Scotland.
Animal rescue officers and inspectors responded to 86,078 reports of animals in need – over 235 per day. This included assisting over 13,000 dogs, almost 8,000 cats and over 3,000 hedgehogs.
The charity’s animal rescue and rehoming centres rehomed 3,434 animals. They continued to offer support to individual farmers and the wider sector in 2022, assisting 2,282 farmed animals throughout the year.
The world-leading National Wildlife Rescue Centre treated 4,908 wild animals, 74% of which were successfully released back to the wild. This included much-loved Scottish wildlife such as hedgehogs and red squirrels. The charity did have to impose restrictions on certain species due to avian flu, but established a quarantine zone in late autumn to begin treating some types again.
Kirsteen said: “One of the cruellest aspect of the cost-of-living crisis has been that we’ve had to take more animals in, whilst finding it harder to rehome them due to people’s weariness to take on an animal during such an uncertain time.”
“We piloted a fostering service in summer 2022, and we will be expanding this throughout 2023 to get animals in to the right environment quickly, and maximise use of the free space we have to get animals who really need help into our care. This service is in the spirit of doing the best we possibly can for animals as we navigate the current economic and societal challenges.”
“Prevention is in our name and this service truly allows us to prevent suffering by not only providing food to those who need it, but enabling us to support animal welfare in the heart of communities instead of picking up the pieces after things have gone wrong.
Tackling organised crime
We spearhead efforts to tackle organised crime in animal welfare in Scotland. During 2022, the charity launched 124 investigations into the puppy trade, 52 investigations into the illegal ear cropping of dogs and 72 probes into animal fighting and badger baiting.
Kirsteen said: “Sadly, there are those out there who can and do exploit animals for their own gain. Our Special Investigations Unit is at the forefront of the fight against these people, and has ensured a number of them face justice through unparalleled case work.
“We’ll continue to educate all and demand policy change until we eradicate such practices.”
If anyone is struggling to care for an animal, they should call the Scottish SPCA’s confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999 for advice and support.
If anyone is concerned about an animal, please do not hesitate to contact our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999.
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