Scottish SPCA warns of potential animal welfare emergency facing Gen Z as new report published

19/06/2023

THE SCOTTISH SPCA is warning of a potential animal welfare emergency facing young pet owners as they publish their second annual Animal Kindness Index report with the RSPCA and Northern Ireland-based USPCA.

The Animal Kindness Index is a UK-wide survey into people’s attitudes towards animals.

More than 4,000 adults took part, answering questions on everything from animal cruelty and sentience to welfare issues and all aspects of pet ownership.

The results for the UK showed that more than half of Gen Z pet owners say they have taken action to cut down on costs when it comes to looking after their animals. Of those young people who have made changes to try and save money, 45% believe their animal suffered as a result.

Whether that is cutting down on food, changing food brand, avoiding vet visits or cancelling pet insurance, this new report shows that 53% of 18 to 24-year-old pet owners have taken action to reduce costs. This is compared with just 28% of pet owners aged 55 or older. 

Nearly a third of Gen Z respondents are worried about being able to feed their pet, while 36% are concerned about their ability to care for the pet.

Although 67% of Scots described themselves as animal lovers, only 54% of UK participants aged 18-24 described themselves as animal lovers, and only 21% said animal welfare was an important issue – the lowest percentage of any age group.

Regionally, Scotland appears to have been impacted the most, with 88% of Scottish pet owners stating that it has become more expensive to care for their animal compared with 75% of those living in London. 

Scottish SPCA CEO Kirsteen Campbell said, “It might be tempting to look at these figures on the surface and write them off as a younger generation who are not interested in, or knowledgeable about, animal welfare. But the data in the report paints a much more complex picture.

“Is it any wonder that young people don’t feel able to engage with animal welfare when they are struggling to protect their own welfare and that of their animals in a cost-of-living crisis?

“We must get ahead of issues before they worsen. One of our goals over the next 10 years is to reduce instances of both intentional and unintentional abuse. Our Pet Aid service exists to prevent people of any age having to make decisions around food that may harm their animal. 

“We also recently announced the expansion of Pet Aid to include basic veterinary care in partnership with PDSA, StreetVet and IVC Evidensia. The pilot launches later this year and will also mean animals don’t have to miss out on basic vet care due to prohibitive costs.

“All this means we really are in the eye of the storm when it comes to animal welfare issues. Our services are a lifeline for people and animals across Scotland. We are the only charity which rescues all animals and sometimes the last hope for people who are struggling.

“Like many charities, we’re also feeling the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis. We receive no government funding and our operational costs are continuing to rise. Prices of vet supplies, food, and the cost of running our fleet of vehicles have all increased. It costs over £56,000 a day just now to run the Scottish SPCA and provide animals in Scotland with the care they need. This is 14% more than 2022. Our fixed term fuel contract will end later this year and it’s a huge worry for us.

“Prevention is in our name and we want to tackle the root causes of welfare issues rather than picking up the pieces when things have gone wrong but we’ll need the support of the public to be able to deliver these vital services.

“However, we’ll continue to do all we can in communities across Scotland to safeguard the next generation because Scotland’s children and animals deserve better.”

Pet Aid is currently supporting 46 food banks across 18 local authorities.  A full list of foodbanks where Pet Aid is available can be found on the charity’s website here: https://www.scottishspca.org/pet-aid

Anyone struggling to care for their pet can call the Society’s animal helpline in strict confidence on 03000 999 999 for help and advice.

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