Pets Threatened by Recession?

In Pets, Writing (all kinds) on September 25, 2016 at 3:00 AM

By Kathy Tapley-Milton

Some people used to complain that the “veterinarians have a license to print money”, but even the vets today are feeling the squeeze of the recession as pet owning customers spend less on grooming, tooth cleaning, stays at kennels, vaccinations, toys, and flea medicine. Tragically, some pet owners who have lost their jobs and their homes cannot afford to pay for their animal companion’s needs anymore and the pets end upon the streets.

Animal Victims of the Economic Downturn

In the Miami Herald online writes: “Meet Lady, age 3, the latest victim of the recession. An American Staffordshire Terrier, she was turned in to the Humane Society of Broward County recently by a man who lost both his job and his home. He told shelter workers: “Good with kids, good with dogs. She loves to play.” As foreclosures mount and unemployment rises, many are finding they can no longer afford their pets. “It’s sad,” says Cherie Wachter, spokeswoman for the Broward. “A lot of these pets have been loved and well taken care of.” She recalls a particularly poignant story around Christmas, when a family, including a 9-year-old child, brought their 100-pound lab-mix to the shelter because they couldn’t afford to keep the dog. In 2008, the society’s statistics show that 332 persons in Broward said they were turning in a pet because of “no home,” up 71 percent from the 194 who gave that answer in 2007. Another 575 in 2008 said cost was the main reason, up 42 per cent from 2007. Just as worrisome is that 700 fewer people adopted pets in 2008. That’s not a large drop – about 7 per cent from 2007 — but still a problem for a shelter trying to save animals’ lives.” People hit by the recession are giving their pets to shelters in droves and fewer people are adopting pets from shelters. Some animal companions are being euthanized because their owners can no longer provide for its needs.

Pet Owners Survey on Pet Spending

What are pet owners willing to cut back on with their animal companions? “In a recent survey conducted for pet food company The Goodlife Recipe, 75 per cent of pet owners said in tough economic times they’d cut down on something in their pets’ lifestyle…. However, the cutback isn’t likely to come at the local veterinarian’s office. Roughly 50 per cent said they wouldn’t cut back on visits to the animal doctor. When PR firm Fleishman Hillard asked pet owners in December 2007 what they’d cut back on if they had to watch their finances more closely, pet supplies was at the bottom of the list—just 32 per cent said they’d cut back on these expenses. Pet owners who participated in the survey were more likely to spend less on groceries (47 per cent), household goods (62 per cent), and clothing (62 per cent). The survey also found that pet owners considered veterinary visits, preventive medications, and name-brand pet food far less trim able than pet toys, grooming, and doggie daycare.” Information taken from: Learning to do non-medical procedures for your cat, dog, bird, fish, etc. will save you money. For example cutting a dog or cat’s claws yourself will help with the vet bill; however, make sure that you get a professional to show you how to do it the first time before tackling it yourself. Other non-medical animal care you can learn to give is grooming your pet, weighing it, applying flea medication, and keeping your pet interested in life by playing ball with it.

Hope in a Sea of Despair?

Humans in despair end up having pets in despair as the following stories show: “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. 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 APPA continues, “They (the owners) are absolutely stuck, and they need to downsize and there is no one to take the pets,” Many pet owners have to choose between putting food on the table and getting expensive medical care for their animal companions. They are distraught that they have to part with their well loved friend, but that is the harsh reality. “In response, (Peggy) 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. 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.” Providing temporary, emergency shelter for pets hit by the recession is a good idea.

Also, having safe homes that take in a stricken pet for a period of time until the owner gets on his or her feet would be beneficial as well. Perhaps kind neighbors or friends of the financially stricken pet owner could volunteer to keep the pet for awhile to keep the animal off of the streets.


In our current economic downturn we need to be thinking of ways to cut the costs of pet ownership without harming our pets. A naturopath in New Brunswick, Canada who owns a cat and a dog makes her pets a big stew everyday including vegetables and meat. She says that this stew is very healthy for them. Also, there are recipes for make–at- home dog and cat treats. However, all these should be approved by your vet before you embark on making home-made food for your pets. Some neutered pets get urinary crystals if they don’t get a proper diet. In conclusion, these challenging economic times should lead us to do more pet care ourselves, but rely on the veterinarian for emergency care. Also, there are some pet insurance companies that get group rates and this could be helpful to offset vet bills. One such company is:, but shop around on the Internet and ask your vet for pet insurance brochures. Some insurance companies will pay 100 per cent of your vet bills if your pets are approved for the insurance. Our animal companions show us love and compassion. Should we show them any less?

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