The designer pet carrier sits empty in the corner next to the matching doggie couture leash and collar set studded with bling. Yesterday's extravagant excesses are a far cry from today's reality, as more and more pet owners are finding themselves having to make tough choices about their companion pets.
The economic crunch, along with continued high unemployment rates and foreclosures, has created a secondary string of homelessness. Former furry family members, well-loved cats and dogs, are being abandoned or surrendered to animal shelters as Americans are finding it more and more difficult to weather the ongoing economic storm.
In some cases, foreclosure has forced families to move to temporary shelter or rental housing where pets are not welcome. In other instances, job loss has made it impossible to afford needed medical treatment or just the basics of food and shelter for their pets. Either way, it is often a desperate situation, causing some people to deal irresponsibly with it by leaving pets behind to fend for themselves. These are likely folks who should not have become pet parents to begin with. Most pet owners will try to do the right thing, either finding a sympathetic friend or neighbor who will take their furry companion in, or a shelter where they can surrender their pet. Unfortunately, surrendering to a shelter is not always a win-win situation.
In the past two years, animal shelters locally and nationwide have experienced a tremendous increase in pet surrenders, many due to economic hardship. Sadly, the shelters are faced with similar concerns of rising cost of pet food, veterinary care, pet day care or boarding fees that caused the owner to give up their pet. Overcrowding has become a problem at shelters. Some have to turn pets away. Other facilities, that are not "no-kill" shelters, end up having to euthanize some animals.
There are resources that offer assistance in keeping companion pets together with their pet parents. In many areas, pet food banks have opened to help provide food to pets whose families are struggling to afford the basics. Some pet charities and vets have created programs to assist people in need with free or affordable medical care for their pets. There are also pet foster groups who will temporarily care for pets whose families are displaced. In addition, all pet owners can do simple things to cut costs without taking drastic measures: buy a cheaper, possibly lower quality pet food; groom your dog at home or fewer visits to the groomer; take advantage of coupons, deals and comparison shopping; buy pet supplies in bulk.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to make ends meet in the current economic situation, there are many things we can do to help keep pets together with their families: become a foster parent; donate pet food and pet food coupons to a food banks; donate money and/or supplies (such as crates, blankets, leashes) to local animal rescue groups and shelters; volunteer at a local shelter, adopt a pet from a shelter (this frees up space for another homeless pet).
In two-thirds of American households, pets occupy a position of beloved family member. We shouldn't allow the economy change that.