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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Money


Humane groups say recession takes toll on pets

Animal welfare groups across the United States are reporting a surge in cash-strapped pet parents being forced to give up their companions and many others turning to food pantries for help.

Jimmy Gonzalez, the animal control officer in Bridgeport, Connecticut, says he has seen an increase in the number of people turning pets over to shelters in the past year because they have no choice.

"We do get a lot of people here who are totally distraught about this," Gonzalez told the Connecticut Post. "I've had people come in here and say they've driven into the parking lot, then turned around and left three or four times before making the decision that this is what they have to do."

So far this year, the Michigan Humane Society has received and more than 1,100 calls about abandoned pets in the Detroit area, humane society official Jan Cantle said.
"About 28 percent of our calls are drop-offs," Cantle told Michigan State University School of Journalism's Capital News Service. "The economy is affecting the ability of people to care for their pets."

Pleas for help from overcrowded shelters have come from:
  • The Arizona Humane Society. Spokeswoman Kim Searles told the East Valley Tribune of Phoenix that the economic downturn is forcing some pet parents to move from a house to an apartment where animals, particularly certain breeds, are not allowed. "Currently, we have so many cats that we can't get them an adoption," Searles said.
  • Friends of Animal Care and Control in Arizona. Executive director Melissa Gable told told the East Valley Tribune of Phoenix that it is not unusual for the Maricopa County shelter to take in more than 100 animals a day. "If this trend continues, [Maricopa County Animal Care and Control] could see nearly 10,000 more dogs and cats" by the summer of 2009.
  • Santa Barbara County Animal Services in California. Community outreach coordinator Stacy Crump says 150 more dogs have been given up to the shelter compared with last year and more than 400 stray dogs have been taken in. "It's a really, really hard thing. People love their animals, and they don't want to give up their animal," Crump told 6 Action News - KSBY of Santa Barbara. The shelter is receiving so many pets that it is running out of space and is even housing animals in its grooming room.
  • The Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals in Stratham, New Hampshire. Sheila Ryan, director of development and marketing, says the number of adoptions is down because of the economy. "Our incoming numbers are about normal, but what we have been hearing, more often the cause for surrender is financial." Ryan told the Portsmouth Herald. "Some people come right out and say they're losing their home due to foreclosure. Most people say they are moving and can't afford their dog any longer."
  • The Centerville shelter operated by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. MSPCA spokesman Brian Adams says 107 people have had to surrender pets this year. Of that total, four pets have been surrendered because of foreclosures and 23 because their owners could no longer afford them. "We are definitely seeing additional surrenders at our shelters due to foreclosures," Adams told the Cape Cod Times.
And food assistance efforts include:
  • Lowcountry Pet Food Bank of North Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston Animal Society president Charles Karesh says the new food bank gives out dog and cat food to pet owners on disability, government assistance and others with economic troubles on a case-by-case basis. "What we want to do is eliminate the problem of people not being able to feed their animals," Karesh told Live 5 News of South Carolina. "We feel like that is a basic requirement that families ought to stay together." The Animal Society says it has seen an increase in the number of animals surrendered due to tough economic times within the last three months. It gets about 10 animals a week whose owners say they just cannot afford to take care of them.
  • Paws for a Cause pet food pantry of Fairfield, Maine. Del Pomerleau, one of the organizers, says she wants to make sure pets get the nourishment they need and is concerned many pet owners are finding it difficult to provide for their companions. Donations have come in the form of food and cash, Pomerleau said. "People have been so generous," she told the Morning Sentinel of Maine.
  • The SPCA Pet Adoption Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. The SPCA is distributing the pet food to help families with budget problems avoid giving up their pets. The pantry is open on the third Saturday of each month, News & Observer of Raleigh reports.
- November 1, 2008

Animal medicines turning into big business

Makers of animal pharmaceuticals are seeing a surge in demand for their products as pet parents seek out the best possible veterinary care for their companions.

Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drug maker which has its global headquarters for veterinary medicine in western Michigan, says sales growth from animal health projects has outpaced overall business in recent years, the Detriot News reports.

"It’s not a trivial component of the business," Catherine Knupp, Pfizer’s vice president of veterinary medicine research and development, told the newspaper. "It is one that is appreciated in value because of its growth."

In 2007, revenue for Pfizer's animal products was up 14 percent to $2.6 billion, while total pharmaceutical revenue for the drug maker dropped by 1.4 percent to $44.4 billion that same year.

Nationwide, sales of animal drugs rose to $4 billion in 2007, a 10 percent increase from the year before, according to the Animal Health Institute, which represents companies that make livestock and pet health care products. Demand for specialized pet products is expected to grow in coming years as more pet parents spend on health care for their animals.

- October 25, 2008

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