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700 rescued animals waiting for space in ‘full to bursting’ RSPCA centres

RSPCA launches urgent drive for foster carers in across Wales

The RSPCA urgently needs more foster carers to help free up spaces in its animal centres – as shocking new statistics reveal 700 rescued animals are waiting for a space.

The charity estimates it is spending an eye-watering £26,000 a week to private boarders for the temporary care of hundreds of rescued animals – including dogs, cats, rabbits, small furry animals, exotic pets, birds and farm animals – as its 59 rehoming centres are “full to bursting”.

There are 125 animals who are based in private boarding establishments across Wales – which includes 91 in Mid & West Wales, 25 in the North Wales region and nine in the South Wales region*.

In response, the RSPCA has launched an urgent new drive to recruit more fosterers – who care for animals temporarily in their own home, while supported by the RSPCA – to help ease the pressure.

The shocking new statistics come as the RSPCA’s annual rehoming campaign – Adoptober – continues to shine a light on the work of the charity’s animal centres, and the rescue pets looking for a second chance of happiness.

Brian Reeves, head of volunteering at the RSPCA, said: “We are struggling – across all parts of Wales.

“RSPCA centres across England and Wales are full to bursting at the moment which means we’re having to use vital charity funds to pay for animals to be cared for with private boarders, and have a long waiting list of animals waiting to come into our centres where they can start their search for a new home.

“We are in the middle of an animal crisis and we can only see it getting worse over the winter months as the cost of living crisis bites. It’s absolutely vital that we free up as much space in RSPCA centres now, so we’ve got room for animal victims of neglect and cruelty we rescued in the coming weeks and months – and more fosterers is going to be crucial in achieving that.

“Getting pets into loving foster homes – especially ahead of the winter months – will be a lifeline to our frontline officers and the animals in danger we need to rescue.”

In total, 691 animals are currently being boarded in temporary care with private boards due to a lack of space at centres – including 120 dogs, 144 cats, 112 rabbits, eight small furry animals, 38 exotic birds, 35 birds, 132 equines and 102 farm animals, because there is not enough room in “jam-packed centres”.

Capacity problems at RSPCA centres are being exacerbated by an increase in calls to the RSPCA post pandemic, a slowdown in rehoming, and a surge in the number of animals coming into the charity’s care – as cost of living pressures continue to bite..

The animal welfare charity has 14 national rehoming centres across England and Wales, with a further 45 centres run by RSPCA branches, which are separate charities in their own right. Collectively, the centres rehomed an incredible 26,945 animals last year, however:

  • The number of animals rehomed is down – by 8% compared to 2020, and by a whopping 31% compared to 2019.

  • As rehoming slows, the average length of stay for an animal in RSPCA care** also increased; for dogs by 9.4% – from 85 days in 2020 to 93 days in 2021 – and for rabbits – from 104 in 2020 to 117 in 2021, an increase of 12.5%.

  • Even more people are seeking to rehome or give up their pets – the charity’s Giving up a Pet advice page has seen page views surge by 42% so far this year, compared to last year.

Those interested in applying to be an RSPCA fosterer can do so online via the RSPCA’s volunteering portal at volunteer.rspca.org.uk.

Brian says the charity currently has 350 foster carers registered, with even more supporting the 145-strong network of RSPCA branches – but the charity urgently needs more, as these problems mount.

He added: “As more animals come into our care, stay for longer with us, and less people are adopting, we’re in a really worrying situation.

“It’s a real space race at the moment – with no room at so many of our jam-packed centres.

“Fortunately, we have 350 incredible fosterers already – and we are so grateful to them all; but we urgently need more. These fosterers welcome rescue animals in their own homes on a temporary basis, fully supported by the RSPCA, and are invaluable to us.

“Times are tough, but fostering could be a lifeline to helping us rescue more animals over the next few months. It is not only an amazing, rewarding volunteering opportunity; but could also help alleviate real pressure on our resources and help tackle this growing animal welfare crisis.”

The RSPCA provides foster carers with all the financial, emotional and some logistical support they need in providing temporary care for the animal – including any medication the pet may be taking and funding for any ongoing veterinary treatment.

Fostering also gives people who would normally be unable to take in an animal long-term, due to other commitments, an alternative and an opportunity to have pets in the home.

Brian added: “Put simply – we urgently need more people willing to open up their homes, and their hearts, to help give dogs, cats and other animals a fresh start in life.

“Thankfully, it’s such a great role. Fostering can be challenging work but it’s also incredibly rewarding – and makes such a huge difference to the individual animal, as well as to us. It can also be hugely beneficial for the fosterer too; allowing them to have the company of a pet without the long-term or financial commitment of adopting.”

“Fostering is also incredibly valuable to ensuring that the animals we rescue get the specialist and individual care that they need. It offers a lifeline for vulnerable animals who might really struggle in an animal centre environment, and it also means we can free up extra space in our centres to take in more animals in need if we have some placed in foster homes, where they’ll continue to receive our support.”