8 Dec 2011

Bad Economy Hurts Pets Too

Author: Colin Andrews | Filed under: Enterprise Story

By: Colin Andrews

More cats and dogs are living in shelters than ever before.

As unemployment stays at around nine percent, homes are foreclosed on and inflation rises, pets are being left behind as many pet owners have no other choice but to get rid of their treasured friend.

“In this economy, a pet has become a luxury item,” said Erin McKibben, shelter manager at the Wood County Humane Society.

Unemployment skyrocketed in 2009 and has remained high since then, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate went from only 6.6 percent in October 2008 to 10.1 percent in October 2009 and is currently at 9.0 percent.

With unemployment so high, people need to make tough choices in order to live and one of them may be giving up their family pets.

When someone can no longer afford to take care of a pet, options are limited. Some people give their pets to friends or family, some neglect their pets, some drop their pets off into the wild and some surrender their pets to a shelter or humane society.

Both the Wood County Humane Society and the Wood County Dog Warden have seen increases in animal surrenders.

“We have received an unbelievable amount of calls to surrender dogs this year,” said Andrew Snyder, Wood County dog warden.

As the economy suffers and people continue to lose their jobs, more pets are being surrendered to save money. Many times this is not easy for the pet owners.

“We had a woman come in recently that had to surrender all four of her dogs because she could no longer afford to take care of them. She didn’t want to surrender them, but had no choice,” Snyder said.

The cats are free to walk around in the 'cat room' at the Wood County Humane Society, Photo Credit, Colin Andrews

The amount of dogs surrendered to the dog shelter has risen drastically from 44 in 2009 to over 100 and counting this year, according to data on the Wood County dog warden’s website.

The Humane Society is feeling the effects of a bad economy also. All funding for the Humane Society comes from public donations, memberships, fundraisers and quests from living wills. Fundraisers and donations have taken a hit.

“The economy has affected our income, and we have had to raise the price of adopting a pet because of it,” McKibben said.

The price of adopting a dog from the Humane Society has gone from $80 straight across the board to $100 for dogs over one year and $120 for dogs under one year.

The Wood County Humane Society accepts many different animals from cats to dogs to horses to guinea pigs. Most of the time the shelter is close to or over capacity.

Some older animals have been at the Humane Society for years on end and incorporate to the high capacity rate.

“We have a dog that has been here for five years and some of our cats have been here for seven or so years. Some animals unfortunately have a harder time finding a home than others,” McKibben said.

A pet can be like a friend, and having to get rid of it because of something like money could cause depression, isolation, or a feeling of being alone, according to Laura Sanchez, professor in the sociology department at Bowling Green State University.

The Wood County Dog Shelter has seen an increase in dog surrenders recently, Photo Credit, Colin Andrews

“Some people treat their animals as a member of the family, and when someone can no longer take care of their animal, it can be painful to that person,” Sanchez said.

Animals have feelings too and need proper care and feeding just like humans.

“People can get true, unconditional love from their pets. Animals can feel many emotions that humans feel,” Sanchez said.

Not only is the Wood County Humane Society feeling the effects of a bad economy, the Seneca County Humane Society is feeling them too.

“We’ve seen a definite increase in people who have to get rid of their animals because they can no longer afford them,” said Morgan Dart, adoption coordinator at the Seneca County Humane Society.

The Seneca County Humane Society is over flowing with cats and dogs and is “completely and totally full,” according to Dart.

A bad economy brings tough choices for families, and Dart has seen many sad stories.

“There was a case recently where a family had to give up their dog. A little boy from the family was crying and asking us to please find a good home for their dog. They just couldn’t afford their pet anymore and it was sad,” Dart said.

Paula Dewald, a homemaker from Seneca County believes that humans and animals can have a special connection.

“My daughter has had many cats over the years when she was growing up, and she always felt like they were a friend to her. It was hard for her when we had to get rid of some of them,” Dewald said.

Dewald said that they started with a few cats and it eventually grew to many more.

“We may only have three or four outside cats in the winter, but once spring comes along and they all have kittens, there are way too many for us to take care of,” Dewald said.

“Just last summer we had to take most of the cats to the animal shelter or find new homes for them because it just got too expensive to feed them all. It seems that cat food is getting more expensive and my husband got laid off from his job, so we couldn’t afford to take care of that many cats,” she said.

McKibben, of the Humane Society, said that there have been many sad stories recently.

“Everyday we have people coming in here asking if we can take their cat or dog because they say they can no longer take care of it. They tell us that they’ve lost their jobs or have been forced to move into an apartment where there are no pets allowed,” she said.

As unemployment stays at around nine percent, more homes are foreclosed on and inflation rises, animals will suffer.

The economy affects more than just humans – it affects animals too.

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