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March 26, 2008

Money Crunch Claims Pets

We at The HSUS have long argued that there's a link between the fortunes of animals and other pressing social issues. When someone abuses an animal, for instance, it is often a precursor to other forms of violence to come. Or if a downer cow is abused and funneled into the food supply, there is a greater threat to public health.

Well, the issue cuts in many ways. When people are in economic distress, or facing a financial loss, that often has repercussions for animals. Human and animal lives are entangled in our culture, and when there is crisis that affects one or the other, there's usually an impact to be felt elsewhere.

Dog at animal shelter
© The HSUS/Petros

We are seeing this principle at work right here in the United States with the foreclosure crisis. Facing financial crisis and foreclosure, families are being forced out of their homes. And pets are turning out to be the unexpected victims of poor financial planning and larger economic forces.

Feeling the financial squeeze, some families are trying to make ends meet by sacrificing pet care or by relinquishing or even abandoning their pets. USA Today featured a story about this yesterday, with Sharon Peters reporting that animal shelters in areas with high foreclosure rates are seeing an increase in relinquished and abandoned pets. While shelter-relinquished animals have a chance at finding a new home, other pets—those left abandoned in homes or apartments, or turned lose to fend for themselves—face a grimmer fate.

In response to the current crisis, and requests from the animal sheltering and rescue group community, we’ve launched the Foreclosure Pets Fund to provide grants to shelters, rescue/adoption groups, and animal care and control agencies to assist families in caring for their pets during these tough times. All of these agencies are feeling the squeeze. Our HSUS program was mentioned in yesterday’s USA Today story and, within minutes of reading about the fund, Pilot Travel Centers contributed a generous gift of $5,000. We hope others will add to the fund so we can provide even more support to shelters and rescue groups helping foreclosure victims and others who are in financial crisis. If you’d like to assist families and their pets during these trying times, consider a special contribution to the fund.

Members of Congress are taking action to help as well. Last week, Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), joined by HSUS staff, held a pet food drive for Delaware families affected by the crisis. We are also spreading the message that when a family loses their home, they must take responsibility for the animal. Animals are not chairs or desks to be left behind, nor are they objects to be casually relinquished. They are living beings, and we have a responsibility to care for them, even in times that may be challenging and difficult.

There are resources available on our website and many local programs to help find pet-friendly rental housing and low-cost pet care. Even when times may seem bleak, there must be alternatives to relinquishment and abandonment. We wouldn't do it to our kids, and we shouldn't do it to our companion animals.

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