The cost-of-living crisis is taking a “heart-breaking” toll on Scotland’s pets as rescue centres see staggering rises in families forced to give up their animals.  

In an effort to stave off a full-blown “pet care crisis”, Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home (EDCH) has given away over 35 tons of pet food to owners in need and food banks from January to September this year – but fears it cannot keep up with the rising demand is keeping the chief executive up at night.  

The charity, known as ‘the Home’ among the team, started collaborating with food banks at the end of 2019 and now supports 66 of them stretching from Stirling to Edinburgh and the Lothian but also to the Borders.  

“The food banks are the reason we’re avoiding a pet care crisis here at the Home,” chief executive Lyndsay Fyffe-Jardine said.  

“Our kennel and centre would be filled to the brim if we didn’t have that offering of support we could give people. 

“We see pets as part of our family and actually we're fighting for those families to be kept together.”  

The alternative to this mammoth work of collecting and distributing pet food passing the value of £82,000 this year alone, is a grim reality for many families. 

Huge rises in pets being surrendered to rescues

The EDCH has seen a 20% increase in pets coming into their care since the spring. In one day in October, the charity received 30 requests from owners looking to surrender their pet – whereas this time last year they would expect four or five calls.  


In the last three months, they received 165 requests from families at the end of their tether and they are not the only ones seeing a rise. 

The Scottish SPCA received 194 dogs into their care in the whole of 2021, yet in the first six months of this year, they took in 700 – a 261 per cent increase just halfway through the year.  

Their number of cats went from 140 last year to 432 in the first six months of this year. Rabbits coming into their care also rose from 39 in 2021 to 201 from January to June of 2022.  

Rises in pets being surrendered are coming before many people have faced choices “between food and fuel” with energy prices impacting many people’s ability to heat their homes this winter.  

Ms Fyffe-Jardine added: “It’s really the most heart-breaking situation to witness. Some of these dogs and cats are experiencing such levels of grief that should never have to be experienced. 

“To watch that person walk out the door, knowing what they've given up, seeing that trauma play out in their face, as they leave by themselves knowing what they've lost – it’s a horrendous experience. 

“Right now, we have got two collies, Tess and Blaze. They are eleven-year-old and they’ve lived their whole life with their family. 

“Their family have been really pushed to breaking point by this current cost of living crisis and they had to be given up to us. 

“That was a very traumatic situation for the team to support that family through.” 


While the two dogs will eventually go to a new home, she fears the family will feel the impact of giving them up “for many years, if not forever”.  

Trying to be part of the solution

Work with the food banks, which the EDCH started in 2019, is one way the charity is trying to have a “positive preventative” impact on the worrying trend.  

As of September 2022, work with food banks was helping 2645 pets remain in their loving homes across central eastern Scotland.  

“We are trying to be part of the solution while also being part of the safety net,” Ms Jardine-Fyffe said.  


A volunteer at one of the food banks based in Bristo Memorial Church in Edinburgh’s Craigmillar described the “amazing” impact the home had for the people using the services.  

Betty Forrest said: “It’s really made such a difference to people. When people can’t afford food for themselves, they certainly can’t always afford food for the animals.” 

Every fortnight when the EDCH team visits the food bank, people will bring in their pets.  

“It can get a bit chaotic sometimes, but it is absolutely brilliant,” Ms Forrest said.  

“They bring in their animals, they get a bit of food for them, and they have a cup of tea with the food bank people and we get to know their problems. It works both ways for us.”  

Speaking about their animals brings an “immediate smile” to the face of the food bank users, the volunteer added.  

“People like to talk about their animals and it’s different from talking about how you're feeling about not having any money or food. It’s a very positive thing.” 

 Ensuring food banks are stocked with pet food not only helps keep the number of pets being surrendered in check, but also ensures owners are not giving away needed nourishment.  

Ms Fyffe-Jardine said: “They’re feeding their children, they’re feeding their pets and they are not always feeding themselves. 

“That person is taking away from their own allocation of foods to give to their pets, which means that person is not actually eating as much as they should.  

“Nothing good can come from that.” 

Can we keep that going?

More food banks are reaching out to the centre but there are concerns their supply may not be able to keep up with demand.  

The chief executive added: “That’s a concern to us. Can we keep that going? It’s something that keeps me up at night. It’s on my mind, it’s on my team’s mind.  

“This is now something that's affecting what you would regard as your average person or your average family who might have been comfortable enough to charity each month.

“They are now the ones who are going out to food banks, they're now the ones who are reaching out to the likes of us and saying, ‘I don't think I can keep my pet with me’.” 


The SSPCA has also launched a programme providing pet food to 16 food banks across the country called Pet Aid.  

Chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “This year, our inspectors have had to support pet owners in some horrendous situations.  

“We’re helping people who are not buying food for themselves so they can feed their pet, who are calling our animal helpline in floods of tears because they feel they’ve let their animal down.  

“Pet Aid is part of our wider commitment to early intervention when it comes to protecting animals. Wherever possible, we will act to stop a person feeling they have no choice but to give up their pet.” 

Ms Jardine-Fyffe said: “We’re already seeing that donations are dropping both to the home but also to our food banks.   

“The reality is we know that we have had increases of pets coming into our care before people are making choices between food and fuel.  

“That’s obviously our biggest concern in the months ahead – what does that mean for people and the indignity of the choices they're going to have to make for themselves.” 

Support the work done by the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home HERE or donate items to the charity using this guide