Pets are feeling the pain of the country's economic downturn. We've been hearing this for the past six months or so, but we decided to survey our network of shelters and rescue groups to get the full story. The heart-wrenching facts show that indeed pets are the silent victims.
According to the survey, 84 percent of Petfinder.com animal shelters and rescue groups are receiving more pets in need due to the overall economic downturn, foreclosures and/or job losses. And sadly, 74 percent said that they have seen an increase in pets being given away or abandoned since this time last year due to these economic trials.
The specific economy-related reasons that people are giving up their pets vary:
* 47 percent of shelters and rescue groups said the No. 1 economy-related reason pets are being surrendered is because of general financial difficulty.
* 18 percent said the driving factor was people needing to relocate.
* 16 percent said the No. 1 reason was primarily foreclosures.
That's not the only bad news. Petfinder.com also found that 37 percent of shelters and rescue groups have seen a decrease in pet adoptions over the past year. Shelters are overcrowded and hurting financially, struggling to find homes for this influx of animals.
What can you do to help? Fortunately, there are many ways individuals can positively impact homeless animals nationwide. You can volunteer to temporarily foster a pet in need, donate your time or money to a local shelter or rescue group, and of course, adopt a pet who is looking for a new, loving home.
There are also a number of simple changes you can make to ease your own financial crunch. You can buy pet food in bulk, or even search for discounts on food, especially if your pet eats a premium brand. There are often coupons available - which can quickly slash the cost. You can also slowly transition your pet to a less costly brand to avoid an upset tummy (and a potential vet bill). If you cannot afford to buy supplies for your pet, look into a pet food pantry, which offers low-cost or free food to the needy.
To cut costs on medical services without sacrificing your pets' care, search for clinics that offer low-cost vaccinations and/or spaying and neutering. In general, spaying or neutering is the responsible thing to do, and it may prevent costly medical issues. Larger pet stores can offer low-cost vaccinations. Know your pet's vaccine history to avoid over-vaccinating, and make sure the clinic is recommended by a friend, veterinarian or animal welfare professional to ensure quality care for your pet.
No matter what the reason is for economic hardship, the best thing you can do to help your pet is ask for help from friends, family and the community around you before simply giving your pet away.
For those of you who are planning to bring a new pet into your home, you can find over 270,000 adoptable pets on Petfinder.com who would benefit from your time, energy and love. And for those of you who aren't ready to adopt, be a voice for all pets and spread the "Adopt a Homeless Pet" call-to-action loud and clear.