Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shelters overwhelmed by pet abandonement due to economic hardship

During my perusing of the Internet for relevant animal news to report on Pet Chat Radio and this blog, I stumbled across an article by a local Nebraska newspaper, called the Beatrice Sun that inspired today's final news story and personal comment. The article is titled, "Animal Shelter Sees Boost In Cute and Cuddly." This title refers to Summer being typically known as “cat season” at the Beatrice Animal Shelter, with this year seems to be especially busy. Not only are young kittens being brought in at a rate of as many as 17 a day, but owners are finding it necessary to give up their pets due to financial hardship, according to Beatrice Humane Society Executive Director Gina Grone. She says, “We’re able to adopt the kittens out, but its becoming harder for us to adopt the adults. People come in wanting an adult cat, and then they see the kittens, and decide on one of them.” In order to help the adult cats, the animal shelter is offering free adoptions through Monday for cats older than one year.

Grone adds, “We’ve had a lot of strays come in that we know are someone’s pets. They are declawed, spayed or neutered, they are just a lot healthier than what you would normally see in a stray or feral cat. But people just aren’t coming in to claim them. I think it has a lot to do with the economy. It’s getting to the point where we have to make some hard decisions.”

As a result, the shelter is operating over-capacity, not just in the number of animals, but in resources. The shelter is in need of everything from basic cleaning supplies, to pet food and more volunteers. The shelter is also looking for foster homes. A foster family’s basic function is to teach the animal to socialize. The shelter is currently looking for a family who will take in an Australian shepherd mix, which gave birth to nine puppies on Tuesday.

Under the foster care program, the shelter provides all food and veterinarian services.

Even though this is the state of affairs of one little shelter in an isolated small town in middle America, I chose to showcase this report because this is seemingly reflective of the state of animal welfare nationwide, with similar circumstances being reported in my home county's local shelters, as well as many anecdotal reports across the country. The truth is this: economic hardship is causing an increase in animal abandonment with these owners citing lack of financial resources to properly care to these pets. What compounds the problem hugely is that the strain on shelters has increased considerably, while donations are down with people's earning potential diminished, and local governments slashing budgets due to their own financial distress. It is not only an animal control problem, but one that is truly heartbreaking at the level of those animals abandoned. Imagine the canine or feline that was used to a life of being kept fed, sheltered, and loved, suddenly thrust into an overcrowded shelter, forced to live in a small cage, then possibly later euthanized if not adopted within a certain period of time.

My personal comment today is really a rallying call to all people who live with compassion and love of animals that still make a good living and have the means to give back. Remain conscious always that everyone can do their little part to help. Becoming a foster parent to a death row shelter animal would be wonderful, working with the shelter and other resources to place these animals, meanwhile providing a safe place for them to exist in the mean time. Even if this level of commitment is not for you, you can volunteer to help clean cages, donate cleaning supplies and pet food, donate money, buy candy from humane society candy machines, give to the Humane Society donation box at 7-11, and support local rescue groups - there are so many even in small cities such as the one I live, that so many unfortunately fail to notice. Ask veterinary clinics and local pet stores about these groups, contact them and offer your assistance, whatever small part you take, whether as foster, donation of money, food, supplies, or volunteer work, any little offering is one little part of the solution.

Indirectly, educate people about the plight of overcrowded shelters and the animals in them, steer them away from buying animals, instead opting to adopt and rescue from shelters. If not convinced, bring them down to a local shelter so that they can see for themselves the number of animals that are denied a home every time someone opts to buy a purposely bred animal for someone elses profit.

There are many ways that we can help to relieve this situation and do our part to turn this around. Those of us that care enough to sit around and complain about it need to put our money where our mouths are, get off our rear ends, and find out what we can do to help in whatever ways we are able and willing.

Roger Welton
Founder, Web-DVM

1 comment:

VetRN said...

Volunteering in a shelter, and fostering for them, is one of the most rewarding aspects of my life. As a nurse, I see much waste in human healthcare (hence one reason for the high cost). I have made a habit of scrounging otherwise-discarded supplies to donate to the shelter clinic, where I volunteer. Opened boxes of gauze, with just one pad used, unused disposable instruments; all go into a box to be taken to the shelter and autoclaved. Bath basins that were given out and not used are taken to be used as disposable litter boxes. My friends in the clinical engineering department have helped me get some perfectly usable equipment that was simply being discarded when newer models were put in service. Our underfunded shelter now has 3 IV pumps and 2 cardiac monitors acquired in this way. And thanks to a renovation in our ER, I went dumpster-diving last week and scored 3 overhead surgical lights for the shelter's operating room. But for me, the rewards are the satisfaction of working with animals and devoted, caring people. The only downside (in my husband's eyes at least ) is that some of the animals I have fostered over the years have become permanent residents. I now have two amputee kitties and a one-eyed cat who are "failed fosters". But for anyone who has the inclination to volunteer, you will find it hard work, sometimes emotionally draining, but in the end, one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.