Aussies surrendering pet dogs as cost of living bites: 'It's very tough'

You couldn't breed puppies quick enough during Covid, but now breeders can't sell them – and some owners are handing them back.

A lot may have changed since the pandemic and our desire for dogs appears to have significantly dropped off as the cost of living crisis makes pet ownership untenable for many Australians.

“You couldn’t produce enough puppies during Covid when everybody was working from home, people bought dogs like mad, and now you can’t sell puppies,” Professor Roberta Crouch, who breeds rottweilers and Norwegian buhunds in Adelaide, told Yahoo News Australia. “I think people are absolutely not spending money on dogs.”

Which unfortunately is having a tragic flow-on effect.

“My understanding is that the RSPCA and other shelters are chock-a-block full with abandoned dogs and a lot of them are puppies,” Professor Crouch continued. “So people have obviously bred puppies then couldn’t sell them and had to surrender them. I know myself it’s very tough trying to sell a litter of really well-bred purebred dogs.”

A dog and its puppies (left) and three puppies (right).
'I know myself it’s very tough trying to sell a litter of really well-bred purebred dogs,' Professor Crouch said. Source: Facebook

Surrenders climb as pet adoption rates plummet

In the last year, RSPCA NSW received an average of 20 calls a day relating to surrenders, with the cost of caring for a pet one of the top reasons, accounting for 12 per cent of all surrenders. Other common reasons included moving house (eight per cent) or having too many animals to manage (30 per cent).

“Pet rental challenges and economic hardship appear to have led to an increased demand for our shelter services,” an RSPCA spokesperson told Yahoo News. “We have also recorded a decline in our adoption rate by 30 per cent, resulting in animals waiting longer to find their forever home.”

In October 2020, the average stay for adult dogs at RSPCA NSW was 7.7 days. Two years later that number had risen to 16.5 days. Today, the average length of stay is 34.3 days, with an average cost of care reaching up to $1,000 per stay.

“The amount of people requesting support has also risen in the last 12 months and RSPCA NSW is working in lots of different ways to help people responsibly care for their pets, such as providing access to affordable vet services and behavioural support, as well as food and flea, tick, and worming treatments to owners and animals who need it most,” the spokesperson said.

Dogs behind glass at shelters.
RSPCA NSW said there's been a 30 per cent decline in its adoption rate. Source: Supplied

“RSPCA NSW is constantly thinking strategically about how we can get our animals to their forever homes as soon as possible. Examples include offering reduced adoption fee promotions to try and get more animals out of our shelter and into loving homes and our current ‘Rescuoodle’ campaign to promote animal adoption.”

'It’s the ongoing maintenance that will kill you'

As Professor Crouch points out, it’s not just the price of the puppy that is the problem. “It’s the new car you need, the house you need to move to that has a bigger backyard,” she said.

“You have to pay the council rates. You’ll have to do some training with that dog. But it’s the vet bills and it’s the food and it’s the ongoing maintenance that will kill you. Pets are expensive. And I think that’s why people are surrendering their dogs.

“It’s well worth it if you can afford to do it, but people need to think about the ongoing cost of pet ownership.”

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