NEWSFLASH: THE MAIN REASON MOST PETS ARE RELINQUISHED TO SHELTERS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PETS THEMSELVES.
More than 1 million households give up their pets every year, but two recent studies, published in the journals Animals and the Open Journal of Animal Sciences found that, in many cases, people making less than $50,000 per year relinquish their pets mainly because they can’t afford their veterinary costs, or because affordable, pet-friendly rentals are so scarce.
Emily Weiss, the author of both studies and vice president of shelter research and development for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, is hoping her work will help spur more efforts to help families keep their pets at home and out of shelters — such as creating more pet-friendly housing, making low-cost veterinary care more widely available, and expanding the availability of pet retention programs that help people hold onto and take good care of their animals.
Weiss learned that:
- At least 30% of those in the under-$50,000 income bracket reported that access to affordable veterinary care, pet-friendly housing, and free or low-cost food and boarding would have helped them retain their pet
- The shelter was often the first and only solution they sought for their pet
- More than 80% of those surveyed were unaware that there might be support for them to retain their pet
- Among those given the choice to relinquish their pet or receive services that could help them keep their pet, 88% chose to keep their pet
Weiss’s work is critical because providing economic assistance so that pets can remain in their current loving homes frees up space at shelters for truly homeless animals who may need an adopter. The ASPCA is attempting to address this issue by establishing and supporting “safety net” programs in communities across the country. Safety net programs at two of the highest intake Los Angeles County shelters have assisted over 4,100 animals who were at risk of entering the shelter system since their inception in June 2014.