A new study estimates that more than 260,000 dogs and cats were sent to UK rescue shelters in 2009, the first full year of the worldwide recession.

Dogs and cats are popular pets in the UK and two of the authors of the new estimate study, Dr. Jane Murray and Professor Tim Gruffydd-Jones, having previously estimated the owned cat and dog populations at approximately 10.3 and 10.5 million respectively. 

Over 1,550 welfare organizations were contacted by post, email or telephone between November 2010 and June 2011. They were asked to provide details including the number of cats and dogs currently being cared for, whether they were operating at full capacity and for how much of the year they were full and how many cats and dogs entered their care during a full year (2009).

One of the questions asked on the survey was why people relinquished their pets but those answers were not always recorded by the organizations receiving pets, under a 'no questions asked' policy, and there was some suggestion that responses given by relinquishing owners may not always be accurate. Although from the responses received it became apparent that changes in household circumstances and behavior problems were particular concerns.

From the responses received it was estimated that 131,070 cats and 129,743 dogs entered the care of UK welfare organizations during 2009. In addition, 66 per cent of responding organizations that cared for cats and 47 per cent of those caring for dogs were full to capacity for 12 months of the year. Obviously they could do what PETA does and just kill 85 percent of the pets they 'rescue' but they don't.

Maybe Brits really do love their pets more - or at least British animal advocacy groups do. 

The survey highlights the considerable size of the rescue cat and dog populations and the need for improving neutering rates, decreasing behavioral problems and better education of potential pet owners about responsible ownership and the long-term commitment that is needed.

Citation: Number of cats and dogs in UK Welfare organisations, C C Clark, T Gruffydd-Jones, J K Murray, Veterinary Record, published online first: 28 March 2012.