The RSPCA is urging the public to consider adopting pets instead of buying them as its animal shelters reach “breaking point”.

This comes as the number of animals in private boarding has soared, coasting the animal charity in the region of £500,000 a month.

The charity is the oldest of its kind as it celebrates its 200th anniversary this year.

It says the cost of living crisis has led to its rescue centres facing an ‘animal welfare crisis’ as animals are coming into its care faster than they are being adopted.

Due to RSPCA centres being full, there are currently more than 1,400 animals waiting in private boarding centres.

In the first four months of 2024 (January 1 - April 30, 2024), it cost the RSPCA £2.1 million to provide care to hundreds of animals in private boarding centres because its own centres are already at capacity.

Of that total, almost £1.2 million was spent on kennelling hundreds of dogs because there wasn’t any space left in any of the RSPCA’s own dedicated centres and branches.

The RSPCA explains that it has a capacity for 1,500 animals across its 14 national animal rehoming centres and thousands more across the 45 animal centres run by its 139 branches which are separately registered charities that provide capacity figures on a voluntary basis, meaning the RSPCA doesn’t have up-to-date figures for these.

There are currently 1,441 animals (national waiting list, not including local waiting lists) in the private boarding centres including 503 dogs (costing more than £50,000 each week), 126 rabbits, 201 cats, 285 horses, 58 exotic animals and 126 farm animals.

Of the 503 dogs in private boarding centres, more than 200 are waiting to be rehomed but they need spaces freed up in RSPCA rehoming centres so they can start their training and rehabilitation as they start the search for a new home.

The RSPCA’s national centres can’t rehome animals directly from private kennels.

Karen Colman, Head of Animal Logistics and Welfare Oversight at the RSPCA, said: “As we celebrate our 200th birthday this year, it’s incredible to see how far animal welfare has come since our founding in 1824. But the sad reality is that there’s still so much to do, and we’re currently facing an animal welfare crisis.

“Our rescue and rehoming centres are at breaking point with the number of animals coming in versus the number being rehomed.

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“We currently have 503 dogs waiting to come into our rehoming centres and, while they wait, they’re being cared for by an amazing network of private boarding kennels - but, amid the cost of living crisis, many of these have also had to increase their prices, making it a growing expense for us. The bills we’re facing are mounting every month.

“Sadly, more animals in need are coming into us all the time - many who have been the victims of awful cruelty, abuse and neglect - and rehoming rates have struggled in recent years as many families feel the pinch of the cost of living crisis and make the decision not to take on a pet.

“We’re launching an urgent appeal to those families who do feel they commit to the cost and responsibility of a pet to please consider adopting a rescue instead of buying from a breeder or a pet shop. We have hundreds of animals in our care with so much love to give, they just need a chance.”

Dr Samantha Gaines, Head of the RSPCA Companion Animals Team, added: “Sadly we’re seeing more animals coming into our care and more pet owners turning to us for help because of the increasing costs of owning a pet, including the cost of food and vet bills. 

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“The cost of living has also led to a reduction in the number of people who are willing to take on an animal as they try to save money, and a recent RSPCA survey (YouGov Profiles, 12 months ended 24/09/2023) found 72% of people were not planning to get a new pet.

“But the crisis is also hitting animal rescue organisations, like the RSPCA. Our food bills have soared, our energy bills to keep the lights and heating on in our centres have also rocketed, and animals are staying with us for longer as fewer people are adopting, which means spaces in our centres are becoming available less often and we need more and more private boarding spaces. It’s quickly becoming a serious welfare crisis.”

The RSPCA’s policy states that it will not put healthy, rehomeable animals to sleep and euthanasia is only carried out on advice from a vet to prevent further physical or mental suffering to an animal.