Day by day things continue to get worse; gas prices at an all time unbelievable high, foreclosure rates still climbing, food prices climbing and paychecks and jobs are not even coming close to keeping pace. Many ‘summer jobs’ that would normally go to teens are now being snapped up by adults and seniors.

Pets are suffering in this economyThe choice between buying gas and putting food on the table and feeding and caring for pets has put many pet owners in a position where they have to cut back where they can, often affecting their pets first.

Animal shelters across the country are bursting at the seams with abandoned pets and owner surrenders, the common reason being that the family cannot afford the pet any more or that they have to move from a house to an apartment and cannot have their dog or cat. And adoption rates are down.

One shelter worker says of owner surrenders due to foreclosures, “Those are always the heartbreaking ones because they don’t want to get rid of their animals. But they get caught in the crossfire. And the animals end us losing. And the people’s hearts are broken.”

Vet are even reporting that, yes, sick pets are getting care but unless it’s an emergency, things are being put on the back burner. A recent survey showed almost 40% of vets surveyed reported a decrease in their business in the past 6 months and 92% of those attribute it to the poor economy. Requests for discounted vet care in many cities has doubled because people cannot afford the cost of regular vet care.

Veterinarians have noted more pet owners trying to save money on medical treatments by passing up some options, including diagnostic tests.

“Where in the past they’d say: ‘Do anything that it takes,’ they are now being more conscious about what will it take and then making those decisions,” said Dr. Steven Rowell, hospital director of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

“There are people normally you’d expect to go for preventative care, and they are cutting back on that a little bit,” said Dr. Tricia Bolduc, a veterinarian at Franklin’s Acorn Animal Hospital. “Definitely, they’d come in and decline certain services and, you know, just do the bare minimum.”

Pet food pantries are seeing a huge increase in people coming in for food for their pets because they can no longer afford to feed them but still want to do everything they can to keep them. One organization in Chicago reports a 30-40% increase in the past couple of months. Others report increases from 20-50%, often with lines reaching around the block before their doors are even open.

“In the past, the demographics has been people who are disabled or on disability and senior citizens,” said Santa Cruz SPCA executive director Lisa Carter. “Nowadays, during the pet food program, I see people who are able-bodied and not able to find a job.

Another of the most easily seen immediate impacts of pet care costs has been in the food aisle. The cost of pet food has increased and is forcing some Americans to make tough decisions. When penny pinching occurs, priorities must be established and that sometimes means pets have less nutritious meals or smaller portions.

But in the midst of all of this you are seeing many pet owners forgoing their own care to care for their pets. People taking the food from their own plates to feed their furry family members or skipping their own medication so they can afford to get their pet’s medication. People living in their vehicles with their pets rather than be parted from them because rental properties will not allow pets.

I’ve read comments on stories and comment boards from people that goes from one end of the spectrum to the other. From ‘pets are just luxuries so give up the luxuries’ to ‘my pet is my child and I would never give them up’. Needless to say, I fall more along the lines of pets as children.

To a degree, like many pet owners today, I do anthropomorphize my pets but I do know they are animals and that they are mine. I do believe they have rights; the right to live, to be treated humanely and well, the right to be loved. They are my responsibilty until the end and within reason, I would do just about anything to keep them and care for them. I have to admit I have been in the financial situation where it came down to feeding me or my dogs and there’s no question who was fed. To me, when I accepted them into my life, it was a lifelong commitment, not a whim.

I do have to admit though, that I can see things from a perspective where there are families with children. Children must come first and if the family has no other option or alternative, then I can only hope they will be responsible enough to first try to rehome their pet before just surrendering it to a shelter. Give it every chance they can.

I will never accept any excuse for abandoning pets. It’s cruel and heartless and any person who does that is a low life piece of shit!

Yes, times are tough and there doesn’t seem to be a break coming anytime soon. I wish I had some quick or easy answers but as far as I can see, no one does right now. All I can ask is that people be as responsible as they can.

Some Tips

As average costs for a dog tops $1000 a year, there are some tips you can implement to try to ease the strain on the wallet. Not all of them work for everyone but sometimes just employing a few can make the difference.

  • Shop for a vet: Not all animal doctors charge the same. Make a list of your pet’s medical conditions and needs (including shots and other recurring medical expenses) and call around. Consult your local animal shelters for recommendations or look online.
  • Shop for medicine: Many vets mark up medication prices — some by as much as 150 percent to 175 percent. Ask your vet for a written prescription and take it to your pharmacy and check online. Be sure you’re comparing the same medication of the same quantity and dosage.
  • Don’t buy cheap food: This can be a tough one as people see dog food prices rise but put this in the category of preventative care. High quality food will actually reduce vet visits by keeping your pet healthier in the long run. There are also alternatives to expensive commercial food such as home cooking for your pet. You may have to invest a little more time but in the end you may save a lot more than your invest.
  • Do not overfeed: Many owners overfeed their pets. They equate food with love and there are an estimated 30 million obese pets in the US. Overfeeding is both expensive and unhealthy.
  • Confirm vaccination cycles: Not all shots are necessary every year. Talk to your vet to see if a two- or three-year cycle is appropriate.
  • Spaying and neutering: Having your pet fixed is not cruel, and some studies show that it cuts back on some serious medical conditions and expensive behavior modification classes. This will also cut back on unwanted litters of puppies and help to reduce pet overpopulation which will help everyone all around.
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