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Economic downfall affects pets, too

DCN Correspondent

Anne Jones has a beautiful cat named Alaska. The big, fluffy, calico cat with “the most beautiful green eyes? has been her companion for the past four years, and Anne said she has never had a more agreeable cat.

Today, however, Anne's house is strangely quiet, for it is now void of the beautiful calico. A couple of weeks ago, Anne was forced to hand Alaska over to a volunteer at the Animal Allies Humane Society, with her eyes full of tears, because she could no longer afford to feed the cat.

“My first priority is my family,? said Jones. “When struggling to afford them, I will give up the animals first, and that's what I did; it was absolutely heartbreaking, but I had to do it.?

The Animal Allies Humane Society located on Courtland Street in Duluth said that the economy isn't just taking a toll on humans—pets are losing their homes as a result of financial struggles.

“When an owner surrenders their animal to us, we have them fill out a form and include as much information as they can as to why they are giving up their pet,? said Jo Paull, an adoption counselor at Animal Allies Humane Society. “Many, many of them are saying that they can't afford to feed them anymore, their house was foreclosed and they have no place for them, or that they had to sell their house and move into an apartment and their landlord won't allow them to have the animal anymore.?

The hurting economy is forcing many pet owners to hand their pets over to someone who can afford to feed them, but many of the animals are never adopted.

“People give up their pets, hoping that someone who can afford to feed them will adopt them, but often the animal isn't adopted,? said Paull. “There are so many pets that need homes and only so many homes able to take care of them.?

Animal shelters are always overloaded with animals, but during these hard times it's worse because, while many people are giving up their pets, others are refraining from adopting.

“The number of abandoned pets is increasing while donations and adoptions are decreasing,? said Paull. “People on both sides just can't afford it.?

Pet health is also being affected by this crisis. Pet owners who are keeping their animals may still be able to feed them, but they often can't afford proper medical treatment for them.

“We have seen cutbacks on routine vaccinations,? said Dr. Pirzah Pop, a veterinarian at Dougherty's Veterinary Clinic located on E 14th Street in Duluth. “There is a particular vaccination fore Lyme disease that has seen a pretty large cutback,? said Dr. Pop. “It is a very common disease in animals and therefore a very routing vaccination for prevention, but people are refusing it a lot lately to cut back on expenses.?

Being financially unable to properly feed and treat pets is a problem Americans are facing all over the country.

According to an article that ran on October 8 in the Denver Post, Greeley resident Paula Harding could no longer afford the vet bills for her sick 15-year-old dog. After failing to “euthanize? him by overdosing him on anti-anxiety pills, she shot him, apparently seeing no other choice.

“When an officer arrived, he found a distraught Harding who wept as she recounted shooting her pet,? according to the article.

Texas reports being overloaded with stray animals as well.

“The total number of dogs served by the Seagovelle Animal shelter this year is expected to reach 3,000, a figure three times what it was five years ago,? according to an article on www.examiner.com.

Many Americans are being forced into situations where they cannot afford to feed or take care of their pets, but there are also more options and resources than most people think that can help avoid conclusions like the one Harding came to. There are organizations out there giving what they can to those who need it; one such organization is the Humane Society of the United States.

“The Humane Society of the United States is pleased to offer grants of up to $2000 to animal shelters, non-sheltered rescue/adoption groups and animal care and control agencies,? said the Foundation's Web site, www.animalsheltering.org. “This is to help establish, expand, or publicize services and programs that assist individuals in caring for their pets during the current economic downturn.?

Another organization out there making a difference is the PETCO Foundation, the charity arm of PETCO. They are working with JAKKS Pets, to hold in-store adoption events, giving all adopting families a free month's supply of food for their adopted pet.

“JAKKS Pets and the PETCO Foundation seek to make a difference and alleviate the stress of caring for pets in these tough economic times,? said PETCO's Web site, www.petco.com.