HomeLifeEconomic crisis sends pet surrender numbers soaring

Economic crisis sends pet surrender numbers soaring

The global cost-of-living crisis has hit Australians in many different ways, and not all of those affected are human. Many Aussies feeling the financial pinch have felt the need to give up their dog or cat, with surrender numbers across the country soaring.

For many the motto, ‘A pet is for life, not just for Christmas’ – one they had sworn to live by – has become a promise increasingly difficult to keep. With rent and house prices continuing on an upward trend, some have been forced to downsize their living arrangements, leaving no room for their pets, physically or financially.

While such a change may be emotionally manageable for some, for others it is devastating. The bond between owner and pet is for many as strong as that between parent and child, and to be faced with the prospect of separation can be damaging on many levels.

That’s the reality for many, who simply no longer have the financial wherewithal to keep their ‘fur baby’.

Read: Podcast: Pets and positive ageing

The devastation of being forced to give up a pet has knock-on effects, too. The pets themselves can be psychologically damaged by their changed circumstances, depending on the way they are ‘moved on’.

If they are passed on to another family member or friend willing to take on the associated responsibilities and obligations, the chances of the pet remaining happy and healthy are good. However, that is likely more the exception than the rule, based on reports from animal shelters around the country.

The Lost Dogs’ Home in North Melbourne is one such example. The home’s media spokesperson Suzana Talevski has spoken of the rising number of pets her organisation has been taking in, and the burden that is creating, particularly financially.

“We have 500 animals at our shelter. That’s many mouths to feed. We feel the pinch in terms of buying supplies, keeping up with pet food, and making sure all our animals are healthy,” she said.

Read: Why cost-of-living pressures bite pensioners the hardest

A four-year-old Neapolitan mastiff illustrates her point. Weighing in at a massive 63kg, Charcoal costs about $1600 a year in food alone. The dog was surrendered to the Lost Dogs’ Home by owners who said they could no longer afford a pet.

The latest CPI figures bear out the difficulty they faced. In the 12 months to June this year, the price of pet products rose by almost 12 per cent, nearly double the inflation rate of 6.1 per cent.

As big a factor as the cost-of-living increase has been, there appears to be another significant one pushing the animal shelter numbers up – the pandemic.

Some Australians saw lockdown as the perfect time to adopt a cat or dog, with the hours trapped at home each day an ideal opportunity to spend time and get to know a new furry family member.

Unfortunately, a number of those did not anticipate the logistics of keeping a pet once lockdown ended and they returned to a full working week, leaving their dog home alone. Some of these dogs were given up for adoption, sparking a new version of the old adage, ‘A pet is for life, not just for the pandemic.’

Read: Research suggests it’s pets before partners

As much as some pet owners have tried to abide by that rule, it has become impossible. Amanda Doelle, who founded Canberra Pet Rescue at the start of the pandemic, cites the case of a rescued cat, an 11-year-old tabby named Lilu.

Having lost her job and home, Lilu’s owner was reluctantly forced to give up her pet too.

“She did really try. She was in tears, she was really upset about it,” Ms Doelle says. “She was facing homelessness so she had no way to actually keep the cat.”

Foster carers have been helping in many cases. Charcoal is with one now, waiting for his ‘forever home’. But the issue remains significant across the country, and indeed globally.

Adopting a surrendered pet can be a great way to alleviate some of the strain on shelters, but if you are considering such a move, it’s important to plan for the many years of care ahead, not just the next few weeks and months.

Have you been forced to give up a loved pet? Have you taken on a rescue cat or dog? Why not share your experience and thoughts in the comments section below?

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. And this is exactly why it should be a lot harder to get a pet in the first place. They are NOT ‘fur babies’; they are not ‘children’ and clearly they are not ‘members of the family’. If they truly held those positions, they would not be thrown away when the going gets tough. It is sickening that these COVID pets are now seen as inconvenient, expensive and disposable.

    And on another but related topic, the number of dogs who have been psychologically damaged by thoughtless owners who jumped on the adoption bandwagon during COVID lockdowns. Those pets are now left to look after themselves now the owners are back at work or study. The result is howling, crying, barking whimpering dogs throughout the day. Separation anxiety has set in and other residents nearby suffer as do the dogs. This is ill-treatment by selfish owners who should never be allowed to own any kind of pet again.

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