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Pet Bailout Coming Soon.

I am addmittedly the "World's Biggest Animal Lover".

I often find I care more about what happens to animals than I do people. That's why, when I read the following article, it had the immediate effect of tugging at my heart-strings.

As Economy Falters, More Give Up Pets

Sunday, December 21, 2008

-A growing number of Americans are giving up their dogs and cats to animal shelters as the emotional bonds between people and pets get tested by economic ones.

From the Malvern, Pa., man who turned his two dogs over in order to help pay for his mother's cancer treatments, to the New York woman who euthanized her cat rather than keeping it alive with expensive medications, rising economic anxieties make it increasingly difficult for some pet owners to justify spending $1,000 a year or more on pet food, veterinary services and other costs.

The population growth at animal shelters in Connecticut, Nebraska, Texas, Utah and other states shows how the weak economy is also shrinking the pool of potential adopters. And it coincides with a drop-off in government funding and charitable donations.

The effect has been cramped quarters for dogs and cats, a faster rate of shelters euthanizing animals and some shelters turning away people looking to surrender pets, according to interviews with several shelters and animal advocates. Of the estimated 6 million to 8 million dogs and cats sent to animal shelters every year, half are euthanized and the rest adopted, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

"It's definitely discouraging for us," said Adam Goldfarb, a Humane Society spokesman. "One of our major goals is to develop and celebrate the bond between people and animals. It's so tragic when families reach a point when they can't afford to care for their pets."

With two children, a husband on disability and a difficult job search of her own, 23-year-old Mel Bail of Worcester, Mass., had begun feeding leftovers from family meals to her three cats _ Rory, Ozzy and Mudpie _ before recently deciding to give them up.

"When I couldn't pay my gas bill, I knew I had to find another home for the cats," Bail said.

But it wasn't easy to find a shelter that would accept them. "They're completely full," said Bail, who ultimately turned to online classified ads to find homes for Rory, Ozzy and Mudpie.

There is no nationwide data being collected on the reasons dogs and cats are being abandoned by their owners, but shelter managers and advocates for animals say the trend is undeniable _ and probably a bigger phenomenon than they are aware of.

"People are embarrassed to admit that's why they're giving up their pets," said Betsy McFarland, the Humane Society's director of communications for companion animals.

An Associated Press-Petside.com poll found that one in seven owners nationwide reported reduced spending on their pets during the past year's recession. Of those cutting back, more than a quarter said they have seriously considered giving up their pet.

The average annual cost of owning a dog is about $1,400, while the average annual cost of a cat is about $1,000, according to a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association. The survey suggests there are some 231 million pets _ excluding fish _ in more than 71 million homes in America.

In Omaha, Neb., the Nebraska Humane Society's shelter began tracking for the first time this year those pets given up because of financial constraints. Through mid-November, more than 275 pets were given up because their owners said they couldn't afford to keep them.

Among them are two 9-year-old miniature schnauzers, dropped off anonymously with a note that said their owners could no longer afford to keep them.

Humane Society spokeswoman Pam Wiese said the obedience-trained purebreds came into the shelter up-to-date on vaccinations and dental care and were well-groomed.

"It is really sad, because for these people, it is not an excuse. They are absolutely stuck, and they need to downsize and there is no one to take the pets," she said. "You can tell these have been much-loved pets."

In New York, Erin Farrell-Talbot recently made the decision to euthanize her 15-year-old cat, Buki, when she was told within days of losing her job that he would need thousands of dollars in treatment and medications costing $65 a month to live.

"When it came down to whether I was going to charge food for the month of September or give medicine to my cat, that was a clear decision for me," Farrell-Talbot said. "It was horrible. It killed us."

The Animal Humane Association in Albuquerque, N.M., saw 69 dogs and cats turned over through September because the owners couldn't afford to keep them. That compares with 48 in the same period in 2007 _ a 44 percent increase, said executive director Peggy Weigle.

In response, Weigle's shelter began a program to open its emergency pet shelter _ normally reserved for battered women needing a place to keep their pets for a while _ to those suffering financially. So far this year 45 pets have been taken in through the emergency program, compared with eight the previous year.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Virginia Beach, Va., recently began a program called Help Out Pets Everywhere (HOPE) to provide food, medical care and temporary homes for pets belonging to families with financial difficulties. Eighteen applications were received within the first week.

The program received 18 applications within its first week. Some of those people have never experienced hardship until now, and therefore, neither have their pets, McNally said.

"It's been devastating," said Amy McNally, a spokeswoman for the program. "For somebody to say, 'I can't afford to feed my dog' _ it's a humbling time."

A sad tale, indeed. However, after digesting it a bit longer, a few things just didn't seem to add up right.

The article, which correlates an uptick of people having to give up their pets due to the economic downturn, sites numerous instances where people have to choose between caring for their pets and paying bills.

Mr.Theman, who had to euthanize his dogs in order to pay for his mother's cancer treatments: Does this really correlate with the state of the economy, or would he likely have felt the need to have done this anyway.

The story of Mel Bail, who gave up 3 cats , because she "couldn't pay her gas bill." I wonder if Mel has a cell phone or three that she could have given up. Or maybe a Nintendo Wii.

And hasn't the drop in gas prices given the avarage family a hidden "stimulus" package over the course of the past 6 months?

Maybe that money, or some other sacrifice could have allowed Ms. Farrell-Talbot to have been able to pay for her 15 year old cat's medications? And don't many people euthanize animals as they get to be that age, as well, during good times or bad?

For me, the kicker qoute is that "There is no nationwide data being collected on the reasons dogs and cats are being abandoned by their owners." Oh. I see. So this is one big guess.

If it were me, I would give up every damned amenity I had to keep my 2 dogs and 4 cats. I have taken them in as part of my family, and would treat them as such.

And just how much does it cost one to feed two 9-year-old miniature schnauzers?

Sheesh. These poor animals are now traumatized due to the fact that their owners can't or won't do without something else.

Everything unpleasant cannot just be blamed on "the economy".


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Comments (11)

Yeah, this doesn't grok for... (Below threshold)

Yeah, this doesn't grok for me quite. I was dirt poor as a grad student and still supported two cats and a dog. On crappy food, I might add, but they survived. I mean, poor people have fed their pets for thousands of years before the pet food industry rose up. It's this idea that they have to have healthy brands and a can of wet food every day that's putting animals out of homes.

Also, the thing about euthanizing elderly pets who need thousands of dollars in meds -- I would wonder about the quality of life for those animals, anyway. It's case by case, I'm sure, but this article doesn't account for that.

I volunteered for a shelter that was bursting at the seams with dogs and cats back around 2003. The economy was booming at that point, and people were still not smart about adopting and caring for their animals. I'm not denying that shelters are seeing an upswing, but I'd be surprised if it's not some variation on the same old irresponsible pet ownership we've been seeing forever.

its a valid question. i thi... (Below threshold)

its a valid question. i think many pet owners consider their financial future rather than just the present. theyre much less inclined to spend a big chunk of their disposable-or-not income to save a pet if they see any chance that their job or livelihood will suffer later on

So first you state: "I wond... (Below threshold)

So first you state: "I wonder if Mel has a cell phone or three that she could have given up. Or maybe a Nintendo Wii."

Followed by:

"Oh. I see. So this is one big guess."

Good to see you're a believer in sticking to facts rather than just making shit up.

Brian -- I don't understand... (Below threshold)

Brian -- I don't understand why you're linking those two sentences, referring to two different parts of the article. Shawn himself wasn't entirely clear, but I think he's first speculating about priorities, which isn't that unreasonable a thing to do in an era where wireless internet is practically a human right and yet people complain about the price of milk. He didn't SAY the lady had a Wii or three cell phones, just wondered. Then later he's noting the article's own lack of facts to support its implication that a trend of people giving up pets is directly linked to the economy. Which I agree with him makes the article look half baked.

I don't see where Shawn himself is making shit up. He's not right or wrong, just crafting an opinion.

That huge sucking noise you... (Below threshold)

That huge sucking noise you hear is the sound of another piece of terrible journalism disappearing down the sewer.

Take a tape recorder, half a day and a laptop and you can come up with a heartwarming story about how Hitler was really a warm human being, misunderstood by history, and descended from aliens. All it takes is a bunch of one minute interviews with illiterate idiots at a mall somewhere and the patience of a cockroach and you can connect the quotes together to make any damn story you want. Toss in a few "expert" comments from the web and make up a few more "unnamed sources" and you've got your journalism slurpee for the day.

That's an oversimplification, of course, but frankly that's what journalism has devolved into in the past decade.

Well that settles it. Hubb... (Below threshold)

Well that settles it. Hubby and I will visit an animal shelter this weekend and select a new puppy/dog. Maybe two. We've been talking about it, but haven't done anything. This is a good time. Our beloved Shepard, Weezer, is nearly 14 and she won't be with us much longer. I'm thinking she can help with the transition and training. She has a bossy streak in her. She knows the rules and must be obeyed :)

Pets are a huge commitment.... (Below threshold)

Pets are a huge commitment. It's not like buying a pair of shoes and when I grow weary and tired of them I can store them in my closet or throw them away. I have three dogs and I can tell you first hand I think most days my son is less demanding than my dogs. I can take my son anywhere with me and not have to rush home to feed him or let him out to relieve himself. To answer your question Shawn, we can only assume Mel did not cancel her cell phone subscription. You do not have to walk or feed or take care of your cell phone. When Mel travels she does not have to inconvenience anyone to watch her pet or board them. Unfortunately, some people obtain pets like an accessory-because Paris did it. Blah!! I could ramble on endlessly about how we as a society are so influenced by the media/hollywood. I will say I agree 99.9% with you, but there can be real circumstances. When push comes to shove my family and their well being come first. While growing up we had a dog for years. Due to my parents divorce and bankruptcy we lost everything! Of course, when we relocated to a crappy apartment guess who went bye-bye? You got it ...the dog.

Hmmm, I'm with Shawn on thi... (Below threshold)

Hmmm, I'm with Shawn on this one. It doesn't pass the smell test for me, especially when I recall almost the exact same story being floated six months to a year ago about abandoned pets--the only change was that people were abandoning their homes and leaving the pets behind. (See
this story as an example.)

As in that case, yes, it's likely that there are some folks who will decide to abandon a family pet rather than downgrade to basic cable if necesssary. I have no doubt that the same folks would abandon the same pet for some other minor inconvenience, as well.

For some people, pets are just animals and entertainment. When they become inconvenient (or grow past that cute puppy or kitten stage), off they go to the pound or the humane society, or a conveniently lonely stretch of road.

Most responsible pet owners, however, consider pets to be members of the family, and plan for their care, feeding, and emergencies just as they do for the rest of the family.

Doubtless there are some folks who really have a hardship, and are desolate at having to re-home a beloved pet. But is this pet-abandonment an epidemic? Nope, not even close, would be my guess. Mostly just irresponsible people behaving irresponsibly, as usual.

What we spend on pets is ob... (Below threshold)

What we spend on pets is obscene. (And I say this as someone who just spend $200 to get a cat immunized and neutered despite the fact that the whole house smells like urine from him spraying and despite the fact that I only took him in temporarily as a favor.)

It's obscene.

Particularly the medical expenses.

We would rather spend thousands and thousands of dollars on an old, sick, dog or cat to pull it through another year before it dies anyway, than euthanize it and "rescue" another (or 10) that needs a home and love. It's not enough to give an animal a home and food, we have to commit to a higher standard, premium food, and catastrophic medical care or... it's better that the animal stays in a shelter or "foster" care?

We can't let cats roam outdoors, even though they love it. (And tend to devastate the song-bird population.) Somehow, when a cat becomes a "companion animal" we suddenly assume a responsibility for the welfare of the animal far far in excess of what nature would provide. Because the outdoors is "nature" and the cat at risk of communicable disease, or getting eaten by owls or coyotes, we are suddenly bad "pet parents" if we let our cat stalk sparrows through the grass in the sunshine.

It's not enough if we feed an animal... we've got to immunize it. It's not enough if we feed and immunize an animal... we have to spay and neuter it. It's not enough if we feed, immunize and spay an animal, we have to keep it indoors. It's not enough if we feed, immunize, neuter, and keep an animal indoors, we have to bring it to the vet when it is sick. It's not enough to feed, immunize, spay, keep indoors, and get medical care for sickness, we have to pay for knee surgeries an serious illnesses. And yet, it's still not enough... not enough to feed, immunize, neuter, keep indoors, medicate, or pay thousands for knee surgeries... we also have to pay thousands on elderly animals with almost no hope of recovery and who will die of old age any minute now.

If we don't, we're bad people. Irresponsible people. Callous.

Is it any wonder that it's so hard to convince someone to take in a dog or cat? It's like a conspiracy to keep as many animals as possible homeless.

I don't understand why y... (Below threshold)

I don't understand why you're linking those two sentences... I think he's first speculating

Apparently you do understand. He's "speculating" about the facts behind an article that he then criticizes for basing its facts on speculation.

Hmm, I wonder if you, "martyredcars", are really one of Shawn's many sock puppets. And I wonder if Shawn finished college, or learned his writing and criticism skills from a prison rehabilitation program. I also wonder how much money he paid Kevin to let him blog here.

You see, I'm just "speculating" about facts that I have no basis to speculate on. Which according to you is "entirely reasonable". But it's definitely not "making shit up"... I'm not not right or wrong, just "crafting an opinion". Right?

SAVE A POUND PUPPY OR POUND... (Below threshold)
Spurwing Plover:







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