London: Pets in Britain are paying the price of recession, according to animal welfare charities.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home says the number of people handing pets over for financial reasons has doubled in the past year, while the Blue Cross says so far this year it has taken in 1,530 abandoned animals, up 50 per cent on last year.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) cited a study suggesting stray dog numbers are at 10-year high and said inquiries from owners struggling to meet the costs of keeping pets are "steadily increasing".

Battersea said it is getting calls every day from animal lovers who feel they have no option but to give up their pets as they can no longer afford rising vet bills, have been made redundant, homeless, or face imminent eviction.

It has also seen an increase in the number of big groups of pets brought in, including in the past two months alone groups of 10 Labradors, 10 English bull terriers and 10 German shepherds, as reported.

Numbers of pregnant pets being brought in are also on the rise because owners cannot afford to raise the pups or kittens. Battersea's chief executive Claire Horton said:"Sadly pets can be an unfortunate victim of the recession."

The head of rehoming at the Blue Cross, Mandy Jones, said: "We understand that people are really feeling the pinch but there is never any excuse to dump helpless pets in the street. We urge anyone struggling to cope to always contact an animal charity, like the Blue Cross."

An RSPCA spokesman said: "The continuing economic slump is having a major impact on animals, and on all the charities trying to help them."

(Agencies)