People who were financially devastated by the disaster are relinquishing their pets to area shelters in record numbers. According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), which is the charitable arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), up to four times as many animals are being left at shelters this year as were given up last year.
Hill’s Pet Nutrition and veterinary drug manufacturer Merial have partnered with the AVMF to develop a program to help vets and other pet care workers in the Gulf region support pet owners who are unable to supply food and medical care to their animals.
The Gulf Coast Pet Relief Program has slated 90 veterinary clinics and five shelters in the region to receive $145,000 in funding and pet food to help reimburse the free goods and services they have provided pet owners during the oil spill crisis.
Animal welfare organizations have also stepped up to the plate, including the Louisiana SPCA and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
With a $100,000 grant from the ASPCA, the LA/SPCA launched the Gulf Coast Companion Animal Relief Program to provide free pet care to families whose livelihood depends on the Gulf’s fishing industry.
Work also continues to rehab and relocate wildlife affected by the spill. Per Veterinary Practice News:
In all, at least 5,828 animals affected by the gulf oil spill were collected within the incident area, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report released in early August. These included 4,914 birds (3,271 dead), 843 sea turtles (503 dead), 69 mammals (64 dead) and two “other” reptiles.
BP reported in August that engineers were sealing the well for good and that oil was no longer spewing into the gulf.
There are few situations as heartbreaking as being forced to abandon a cherished pet because you can no longer afford to feed him. Your pet counts on you for everything, and you count on your pet for comfort and companionship, especially during hard times.
Unfortunately, this situation does happen – especially during a devastating financial crisis like what many residents of the Gulf Coast have been dealing with since the B.P. oil spill this past April.
Suggestions for Pet Owners Facing Financial Hardship
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) offers the following important tips for pet parents in financial crisis:
Don't Leave Pets Behind
Abandoned pets face a grim future. Many pets trapped inside abandoned homes aren't found until they're on the brink of starvation. Those lucky enough to reach a shelter have about a 50 percent chance of being adopted.
These outcomes can be avoided by planning ahead as much as possible and finding animal friendly housing. The following steps can help in the search for animal friendly rental housing:
- Give yourself enough time. If possible, check ads and contact real estate agents and rental agencies at least six weeks before you plan to move or when you first learn that foreclosure and/or eviction may be in your future.
- Make use of available resources. Contact the humane society or animal care and control agency serving the area into which you are moving; the agency may be able to provide you with a list of apartment communities that allow pets.
- Gather proof that you're responsible. The more documentation you can provide attesting to your conscientiousness as a pet owner, the more convincing your appeal will be to your future landlord. This can include statements from current property managers and neighbors that you maintain your pet responsibly, as well as copies of veterinary records showing ongoing pet care.
- Get it in writing. Once you have permission from a landlord, manager or condominium committee to have a pet, be sure to get it in writing. Comprehensive agreements protect people, property and the pets themselves.
Five Tips for Caring for Your Pet on a Budget
- Don’t skip routine veterinary exams. It’s much safer and less costly to keep your pet well than to try to treat a serious illness that has developed while no one was watching. Prevention is truly cheaper than disease treatment.
- Prepare your pet’s food at home. With a little careful planning, you can buy meats and vegetables on sale in bulk and prepare your pet’s meals in advance. Even better? You can control the quality of food your pet eats. And the best news? You’ll be feeding your beloved pet a balanced, species-appropriate diet and saving money in the process.
- Don’t overfeed your dog or cat. Not only do overweight companion animals have a lesser quality of life than their fit and trim counterparts, they also often suffer a long list of obesity-related disorders that can be very costly to manage or resolve.
- Make sure your pet gets adequate exercise. The simple truth is the more physically and mentally fit your pet is, the less it will cost you to maintain his health. Your furry buddy is a natural athlete. Walking, jogging and other forms of movement, regular aerobic exertion and playtime are necessary for a sound frame, good muscle strength and tone, and mental stimulation.
- Take care of routine grooming at home. Regular brushing can cut back on visits to the groomer, especially if your pet has a long coat. Regular bathing can help control allergic skin conditions. Keeping your pet’s claws trimmed can help keep your furniture and carpets looking new. Caring for your pet's teeth can prevent the need for costly dental procedures in the future.