With the current recession showing no signs of letting up, shelters are stuffed to the gills with pets whose owners simply could no longer afford to care for them. The Chicago Tribune reported this week that, “When people showed up to give away their dogs and cats at a local shelter last year, the main reasons they cited were “no time” and accidental pet pregnancies. This year, the No. 1 reason is a lot simpler: no money.”
Job losses, foreclosures, and other economic stressors are driving families to relinquish pets, including more purebred and “designer” dogs than shelters usually see. Adoptions have slowed down as well, with many people unsure that they’ll remain financially secure enough to add another member to their families. Foster homes are in high demand, as always.
Shelters Squeezed from All Sides
Shelters and rescues aren’t just hurting due to increased relinquishments and reduced adoptions. They’re also finding donations have dried up since the downturn, and grant money is no longer readily available even to organizations clearly meeting a need in their communities. I received a newsletter from a rescue I support stating that donations in 2009 were down 30%, compared to the first quarter of 2008.
This one-two-three punch has understandably left many organizations reeling, and reaching for cost-cutting measures. That means, for some groups, rolling back extra programs like subsidized spay/neuter services. Of course, over time, reducing those services will create more need for animal shelters in a given community. Some organizations, recognizing this fact, are instead increasing spending on community programs, while increasing their fundraising efforts correspondingly. Regardless of any given shelter’s philosophy, in these tough economic times, nearly all such organizations are struggling.
What You Can Do
The most important thing you can do to help animal shelters survive the recession is make sure you don’t become part of the problem. Save for anticipated veterinary and other expenses ahead of time, while you’ve got a steady source of income. Read the Petlvr series on saving money on pet care. If your pets are young and healthy, research pet health insurance. Monthly payments are more affordable for most families than sudden emergency expenses. Consider asking a close friend or family member to agree ahead of time to foster your pets if you become temporarily unable to afford their care.
If you’re sure your own pets have a lifetime home with you, and you have some extra resources to spare, consider adopting another pet, becoming a foster parent, or volunteering for your favorite shelter or rescue. Groups helping animals need all the assistance they can get, especially now and until the economy recovers.