As many as one million dogs and cats in the United States could end up homeless because the economic recession and home foreclosure crisis are forcing many of cash-strapped pet parents to give up their companions.
The expected surge in homelessness is likely to create a huge burden on already strained humane societies and rescue shelters, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals cautions.
"Everyone is being affected by the current economic crisis in some way, including animals," ASPCA President Ed Sayres states in a media release. "Community animal shelters and rescue groups across the country could be seeing an increase in the number of homeless pets they must care for or a decrease in the donations they rely on to care for those animals."
ASPCA science advisor Stephen Zawistowski says statistics show that approximately one in 171 homes in the United States is in danger of foreclosure. "Considering that approximately 63 percent of U.S. households have at least one pet, hundreds of thousands of pets are in danger of being abandoned or relinquished to animal shelters across the country," he said
Five million companion animals already enter shelters each year, so the economic recession could lead to a 10 to 20 percent increase in relinquishments to already overcrowded shelters, Dr. Zawistowski said. "This has the potential to grow into a serious animal welfare issue, and some regions of the United States, like Nevada - where the foreclosure rates are three times the national average - could be hit much harder than others."
The ASPCA is urging people to help homeless animals and shelters by taking actions such as:
- Adopting a homeless cat or dog.
- Donating used blankets, towels or even tennis balls to a local animal shelter or rescue group.
- Volunteering to foster adoptable animals in your home until they are placed in a permanent home.
- Helping the pet parents in your community who are struggling to take care of their companions.
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ASPCA President Sayres urges people to help in any way possible. "There has never been a better time to support your local animal shelter if you are in a position to do so," he said.