As I write this, the big economic news in the United States is the mortgage crisis and the thousands of home foreclosures across the nation. ABC News reports that animals are the silent victims of this crisis, with pets sometimes being left behind in vacant homes, completely alone and left to fend for themselves.
What can you do if you are having trouble caring for your pet due to financial difficulties or other hardships? First and foremost, don't just abandon your pet. Most of us consider our pets as members of the immediate family and would never even think to abandon them, but it is happening. If your situation feels overwhelming, there are ways to keep your pet or find it a new, loving home where the care it needs will be there.
If you need to move
If you need to move and will be renting a house or apartment, check out the Humane Society of the United States's (HSUS)site for pet owners that rent. It's full of information on keeping your pet while renting. This site includes information on how to find animal-friendly apartments, how to demonstrate to potential landlords that you're a responsible pet owner, and even how to persuade landlords to consider allowing you to rent with a pet. The website is part of HSUS's Pets for Life campaign, a program designed to keep pets with their families.
Affording pet care
If possible, prepare for potential problems in advance. Put aside money in a savings account just for your pet. This will help to ensure that you'll be able to afford medical care and other pet-related expenses like food should you fall on hard times.
If you're having money trouble, don't lose all hope of caring for your pet. The HSUS recommends a long list of ways to help offset your pet's medical costs, including the following:
- Ask your vet if you can work out a payment plan to spread out costs over time or if she can submit an assistance request to the American Animal Hospital Association's (AAHA) "Helping Pets Fund."
- Veterinary schoolssometimes offer discounted services to the public. You can find a vet school near you in the Education section of the American Veterinary Medical Association's website.
- Alternately, ask local shelters if they can recommend quality subsidized veterinary clinics or veterinary assistance programs.
- There are many other organizations that may be able to help you to pay for veterinary care. Visit the websites for Humane Society of the United States or the ASPCA to find lists of organizations by state or animal breed.
Placing your pet
When keeping your pet is no longer an option, focus on finding it a good home. If you decide to try to place your pet in a new home yourself, the HSUS recommends advertising with friends, family members, and local veterinarians first before placing an ad in the newspaper.
Before giving away your pet, visit the potential new home and make sure that your pet will be well-cared for. If someone won't allow you to visit their home and see where your pet would live, pass on them as adoptive "parents." Many professional dogfighters and "bunchers" -- people who collect free pets to sell to animal dealers -- will try to deceive unsuspecting pet owners.
Before you seal the deal, require the new owner to sign a contract that clearly defines the terms of the adoption. You can require the new owner to contact you if he ever decides to give up the pet. Get a valid form of identification (preferably a driver's license) from the new owner. Make a copy or record the ID number and contact information so you have a valid record of the adopter's identity. And, of course, be mindful of your own safety when visiting a potential adopter or allowing someone into your own home.
Alternately, find your local animal shelter by visiting the ASPCA, Pets911, or PetFinder and searching for a shelter by zip code. If you have a purebred dog, you can also use those websites to find a breed rescue organization that can help you to place your dog in a new home. Always research a rescue organization thoroughly to ensure that it is reputable.
Desperate times don't have to call for desperate measures. With determination and perseverance, you can look out for your pet's welfare even during difficult life circumstances. We hope that means you and your pet will be able to stay together. But if you must part ways, you can rest easy knowing your pet will be loved and cared for in a good home.
Jennifer McGuiggan is a freelance writer and editor in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. She writes for a wide variety of clients and publications, and sometimes writes about her cats Gatwick and Cheska on her blog.