Staff at an RSPCA-run veterinary clinic say the service has had its busiest month ever as the cost of living crisis deepens.
Barn Vets, in Ipswich, offers advice and treatment in return for a donation and reduced care costs.
Veterinarian Ellie Cole said owners were increasingly turning to the charity as they struggled to afford vet visits.
“You want to save every animal, but you realize that money plays a big part – that’s really heartbreaking,” she said.
His Ipswich Welfare Clinic, which opened in 1962, treats between 170 and 190 animals each month – an increase of around 20% since July last year.
Staff treated 221 animals in August alone, said clinic director Rebecca Moll.
“A lot of this is a throwback to the pandemic puppy boom – people got puppies but can’t afford to take them to the vet,” he added.
“We ask for a donation of £12 for a consultation – at normal vets it’s £40-£50, and we provide drugs at cost price.
“We never turn away a sick animal and we do a big spay campaign, so hopefully it will prevent more animals on the streets,” he said.
Mrs Moll said owners travel from all over Suffolk to the service and a new clinic has opened in Stowmarket to cope with demand.
Pauline Jones, 61, bought her cat at 11 weeks in 2018 and brought her to the clinic for treatment for arthritic hips.
“It’s really hard to find the money to pay her fees and insurance, and food is so expensive,” she said.
“It was going to cost £45 or more but I paid £18 today.”
Ms Jones lives on disability benefits, like cat owner Ian Morrison, 54, also from Ipswich.
Morrison took his cat to the clinic with an eye infection.
“To see a vet in Ipswich, it’s £45 to £60 before you even get in the door – people haven’t got that,” he said.
“It is what it is – you have to get on with it.
“She’s not going to lose her eye, I’m not going to have to pay £500 to have her eye removed.”
Christina Ablett, 34, from Saxmundham, said without the service she would not have been able to spay her dog.
The clinic provided a voucher to have the procedure done to her vet.
“If it wasn’t for this service, I don’t know how I would have been able to afford to get her spayed,” he said.
“I’d rather stand in line here than risk losing my dog.”
Dr Cole said she had seen a big increase in demand in the last six months alone.
“People say they have so many other bills to pay, they can’t afford to treat their pets, which is really upsetting for them, it’s part of their life,” she said.
“When you qualify as a vet, you want to save every life.
“This is a massive lifeline for people in Ipswich.”
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