Charity turns down 20 disabled dogs in six weeks as Brits cancel their direct debits

A charity has been forced to turn down 20 disabled dogs in the past six weeks due to supporters cancelling their direct debits. Flori’s Friends Rescue, based in Canterbury, Kent, rehomes and rehabilitates paralysed pets across the UK. The rescue centre works with many trauma and neglect cases, saying 70 per cent of its dogs have been subjected to injury or torture. But in recent months, it has faced a “massive surge” in waiting lists and struggled with daily costs, which it says are “tenfold” that of other charities due to medical bills. The charity’s founder, Natalia George believes a lack of funding triggered by the cost of living crisis has led to them being unable to take in any more dogs.

She said: “I have never, in my whole career, had so many emails every day asking us to take in a paralysed dog, and we just cannot home them.

“It’s become so common, and even those who maybe did cope with their paralysed dog before just can’t afford to do anything.

“Lots of charities will adopt them out and they don’t tell the owner what to do. The owners aren’t equipped and the charities don’t take them back, so we end up with them.

“A lot of supporters are also cancelling their direct debits, their lottery subscriptions – we run a lottery as well – which is understandable because when people struggle and think ‘actually what don’t I need’ it’s not like it’s fuel or gas at home, they get rid of all the things that weren’t a luxury before, but an additional expense.

“We understand but these are difficult, tough times. We thought the pandemic would have been when this happened but, actually, it’s this.”

The charity spends £700 to £800 on custom-made wheelchairs for each paralysed dog, alongside veterinary bills that average £3000 per intake.

Natalia, 31, explained: “A lot of our dogs need surgery and their daily costs are much higher because they have to wear nappies, they have to have their bladders emptied, things like that.

“We also specialise in trauma and abuse cases, and those dogs require a longer time with us because of the rehabilitation they have to go through. The longer the dog spends with us the more it costs.

“We never rush any of our animals out, they stay as long as they need to stay, but at the moment we have got an incredible amount of very frightened dogs in, which means obviously they are here for the long stay until they are ready to find a family, which they aren’t at the moment.”

Alongside a lengthy waiting list, the charity is also struggling to find families to rehome the pets, citing increased living costs as a possible factor.

Natalia said: “You’ve got to find that special family that have the time and energy to put into that dog who has had a lot of trauma and abuse towards them.

“Pet insurance isn’t overly cheap, that’s a good £20 to £50 a month depending on how old your dog is, which is quite a chunk of money for someone to hand out when it could have got them their heating for that week.

“So unfortunately people just can’t afford to keep their pets anymore, or they’re cancelling their pet insurance and then they’re going to be in trouble when they get a vet bill.”

Her comments come as another charity says it is also receiving more calls to take in animals, as owners can no longer afford the rising costs of pet essentials.

Claire Sparkes, General Manager at Gables Dogs and Cats Home in Plymouth, admitted she worries about what will happen to the unwanted pets if they run out of spaces.

She said: “We operate a waiting list of cats and dogs that need to come in for rehoming that people can no longer keep various reasons. The calls we are receiving are increasing now from people who genuinely can’t afford to keep their pets any longer.

“It’s a real shame because they are genuinely loved pets, but the increase in their own costs for themselves and families have gone up.

“In the increase in dog food, and veterinary costs like flea and worm treatments and basic pet care items are increasing. It seems like everything is increasing and there’s no kind of let up for anybody and people are genuinely struggling to keep their pets.”

UK inflation climbed to 9.1% in the 12 months to May, its highest level since March 1982. The ONS said food and drink prices were the biggest contributor of inflation creeping higher, while households are also being hit by sky-high energy costs.

Claire added: “[People giving up pets] has increased significantly over the past three months and I think it’s only going to get worse and worse until it gets to a point where there are only so many animals that we can take in at any one time.

“It worries me what could happen to those animals if we can no longer take in because we only have so many kennels and cat pens available.”