They're man's best friends, but apparently not in times of financial stress, as hundreds of people in Australia are abandoning their pet dogs and cats, often because they cost too much.
A slowing economy and interest rates at 12-year highs are hurting Australian consumers and businesses, as well as affecting borrowers seeking loans for homes.
Australia's animal welfare agency, the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), said "can't afford it" was now the fourth most cited reason for people dropping off pets at the shelter, up from number 8 last year.
"Lots of people just don't have that spare cash any more," Michael Beatty, spokesman for RSPCA in Queensland state, told Reuters by telephone. "Unfortunately the trend is only set to grow in the worsening economic climate."
RSPCA's nationwide figures were not immediately available, but Beatty said shelters in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, had taken in nearly 350 pets so far this year, almost twice as many as the same period last year.
He said more and more animals are also being given up because of a shortage of rental properties.
"With the price of rental accommodation going up at the rate it is and the scarcity of rental accommodation, landlords are putting a blanket 'no pets' policy across the board which is really unfortunate," Beatty said.
The RSPCA estimates it costs on average A$1,700 Australian dollars a year, over ten years, to keep the average dog.
According to PetNet, a website promoting responsible pet ownership, Australia has one of the highest number of pet owners in the world.
Pets are part of the family for 63 per cent of 7.5 million households, and 2.8 million of these animals are dogs, it said.
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