Summer 2010 Magazine

Pets and the Economy

By Stephanie Suesan Smith, Ph.D.

According to Catalyst Direct, pets help their owners cope with the current economic uncertainty. According to shelters, pets are being given up in record numbers by owners that have lost their jobs, or homes, or both. Here are some ways you can keep your pet even if the economy has attacked you.

First, the survey. In a sample of 400 Americans, 89% reported that their pets help them deal with the stress in their lives. Eighty -three percent say their pets provide valuable reassurance in uncertain times and 86% value their pets appreciation.

When asked about spending cuts and how that would affect their pet, most pet owners reported they would cut spending on themselves rather than on their pet. This survey has been widely reported. However, there are no details on how it was conducted or analyzed, only a press release with these few results. It is always suspicious when the results are given for a survey without any information on how the subjects were chosen and more information on the data.

Despite the Catalyst Direct survey, many people are giving up their pets. In areas with high foreclosure rates, the shelters are being inundated with animals. Owners tell the shelter personnel they are moving, or have lost their job and can no longer feed their animals.

Actually, the animals taken to the shelter are the lucky ones. Others are abandoned at the houses by the owners. Some are found dead, others nearly so. The lucky ones end up at the shelter, traumatized and scared. Other people just set their dogs or cats loose. Domestic animals do not fend for themselves very well. Most die from starvation, cars, attacks by other animals, or disease. The survivors end up in the shelter. If you must give up your pet, take it to the shelter, at least there it has a chance.

If your home is foreclosed and you must move into a rental property, there are steps you can take to find one that will take pets. The Humane Society of the United States recommends these:

. Give yourself some time. If it looks like you are going to have to move, start looking immediately. Do not wait until the last minute.
. Contact the shelters and humane societies in your area and ask if they have a list of apartments and other places that take pets.
. Prove a you are responsible pet owner. Get letters from your landlord, if you have one, or neighbors that attest to your ability to maintain your dog responsibly. Get a letter from your veterinarian and proof of all vaccinations and heartworm medication. This shows the dog is not a threat health wise.
. Get written proof that your new landlord will allow your pet. If it isn't in writing, it doesn't exist.

If you are worried about the cost of caring for a pet, you can purchase less expensive toys, ask your veterinarian to do only the most necessary care for your pet, and keep your dog indoors or on a leash at all times - this lessons the likelihood of an accident or illness that will cost you money.

Stephanie Suesan Smith is a freelance writer and photographer. More of her writing can be found on her website, and her blog,

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