Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The Credit Crunch: how dog owners are feeling the pinch and what to do to save money

At a time when food prices are rising, fuel is expensive, house prices are dropping and repossessions are increasing, it's easy to see how every family might want to tighten their belts.

One sad consequence of the 'credit crunch' in the UK is an increase in the number of dogs brought to Dogs Trust Rehoming Centres. With waiting lists growing, we do feel sympathy for those owners who feel they simply have no option but to give up their pet. Still, we urge dog owners (and those considering adopting a dog) to remember that simple measures such as neutering your dog and taking out pet insurance will pay dividends in the long run.

Some dog owners might think they can't afford to neuter their dog but Dogs Trust works with numerous veterinary practices and local councils on subsidised and free neutering programs. If you claim benefit and live within one of our campaign regions (North East, North West, Wales and Northern Ireland), you might be entitled to help with neutering costs. Follow the link to check if your postcode qualifies and find out more.

If you think you might soon be suffering from housing crisis, Dogs Trust Hope Project might be able to help too. Although the Veterinary Entitlement Card scheme is available only to homeless applicants, resources such as this list of UK-wide dog-friendly homelessness projects (including shelters, housing schemes and advice centres) could stop you from having to make the heartwrenching decision to give up your loyal four-legged companion at an already difficult time.

Some other charities and veterinary groups do offer free health checks, emergency treatments and subsidies. Try ringing around this list of veterinary contacts to find out more.

Many owners aren't in financial dire straits but want to reduce costs and count the pennies, whether short of cash, saving for something special or just a keen bargain hunter. My thanks to Petsugar, which inspired some of these tips:
  • Give up your gym membership; what's better exercise than running around with your dog?
  • Write a brutally honest list of your pet's needs and work out where you might be spending too much on toys and gadgets that aren't necessary.
  • Luxury foods (with luxury prices) might not be offering your pet any more nutrients and could be loaded with extra fat and protein they don't need. Check ingredients, talk to your vet and make a healthy, budget-friendly choice of chow.
  • Got a birthday coming up and would rather have something for the pets? Let your friends know!
  • Prioritise your dog's health. Regular check ups, vaccinations and fast responses to illness will stop serious problems developing and the associated vet bills spiralling.
  • Bargain hunt! Don't skimp on quality when it comes to toys and equipment as this could be dangerous (not to mention more expensive in the long run) but do pay attention to sales and bulk buys that could last a long time.
It's a hard time, but you need not make it harder by giving up your beloved pet. Remember, a dog is for life.

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