Pets Pay the Price of the Recession

kittyIn recent months, this blog has covered the effects of the recession on children, the hungry, and the developing world. But there is another—often overlooked—effect. Since the onset of the recession, pet abandonment has risen around the world, forcing countless cats and dogs to “fend for themselves”.

In the United States, the most prominent example is Detroit. The struggling city, which declared bankruptcy in July 2013, has seen a steady increase in pet abandonment over the last several years. Consequently, experts estimate that as many as 50,000 stray dogs now roam the streets. This equates to an astounding 1 dog for every 14 residents, or 360 per square mile.

Internationally, Cyprus has also seen a disturbing rise in pet abandonment. Since the collapse of the country’s banking sector in March 2013, the Nicosia Dog Shelter estimates that strays have tripled in number. Mary Anastasi, President of the Cyprus Voice for Animals, says the “country’s economic woes are a key factor”. Similarly, in the UK, the number of abandoned animals has soared by 65% (to over 40,595) since 2007. The Royal SPCA attributes the rise to “owners struggle[ing] to make ends meet in times of economic hardship”.

detroit dog rescue
To compound the problem of increasing pet abandonment, public sector cutbacks have led to reduced animal control and shelter services. In Detroit, for example, the Animal Control Unit went without a legally required veterinarian for 3 weeks in October and now has only 4 officers (down from 15 in 2008). Furthermore, it has become significantly more difficult to “re-home” abandoned pets. In the UK, only 12,711 dogs found news homes in 2011, compared to 16,659 in 2009.

Solving the problem does not require a complete economic recovery. Many animal non-profits can provide free or subsidized food, medical care, and spaying/neutering, relieving the financial burden on pet owners. Moreover, animal rescue organizations can help “fill the gaps where city services are lacking” by collecting and sheltering stray pets.

But these non-profits can’t do it alone. To lend your support, please donate to Detroit Dog Rescue, Dog Aide, or the following Op4G partners: City Dog Rescue, Austin Humane Society, Central Coast Pug Rescue, and the New Hampshire SPCA.

Flickr photo credit: xiaozhen