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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Economic downturn leaves family pets down and out

    The latest victim of the American economic downturn isn’t another financial institution. It isn’t Joe the Plumber or John the Small Business Owner. In fact, the latest victim is entirely oblivious to the recession. It’s Fido the Family Dog. More and more, the adorable family pet is becoming just another stray.

    The rise in animal abandonment is an unfortunate consequence of the sour economy and the rise in foreclosures across the country. According to National Geographic News, the Arizona Humane Society in Phoenix has responded to 1,307 animal abandonment calls this year – a 90ð-percent increase from last year. Similarly, Chicago’s Animal Welfare League said it has experienced a 20 percent spike in calls concerning animals left behind in foreclosed homes.

    There have been many horrible cases of pet abandonment as home foreclosures continue to rise. MSNBC reports, “”Bone and skin were all that were left of a 3-year-old Chihuahua found sunken in the grass near an abandoned home in May.”” Perhaps more disturbing are those animals who actually survive such abandonment.

    Take the case of Cherokee, for instance: “”The dog was just ‘a rib cage, spine and a pelvis,’ but it was alive after being found near another vacant home with no food and no water.”” Sadly, cases like these are more prevalent than many would like to believe.

    Foreclosure is no excuse for animal cruelty and neglect, though. There are many viable and humane alternatives for pet owners who wish to abandon their pets. For starters, owners who are unable to care for their animals can ask family and friends to care for their animals. They can seek out local shelters and rescue organizations. In fact, some shelters even offer free or low-cost housing and care for pets while own-

    ers relocate.

    Owners can even post a free ad for their animal on such sites as Craigslist or Petfinder. The possibilities are endless, and all of them beat the hell out of tying Fido to the tree without water and food and hoping for the best.

    Abandoning pets should be a last resort, for pets confer many tangible benefits at a reasonable price. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asserts that pets can lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness. Imagine what you would pay for a pill that does all that.

    Pets can also increase your opportunities for exercise and socialization. In these miserable times, the companionship of the family pet is mentally, physically and socially therapeutic. And yet, despite these very tangible benefits, many still view pets as expendable companions in light of the gloomy

    economy.

    The news for pets is twice as bleak, however, since pet adoptions are also down. So even if Fido makes it to the shelter, his fate is still uncertain since homeless pets outnumber the available homes. In order to end this cycle of pet abandonment, prospective pet owners must realize the commitment involved in pet ownership. Pets aren’t toys or playthings for children. Pets are like children themselves, requiring many of the same basic things: food, water, shelter, medical care and love. People should adopt pets only if these fundamental conditions can be met for the life of the animals, through thick and thin.

    Furthermore, caring for pets comes with an unpredictable price tag, which could range from $400 to more than $1,000 per year per animal. Pet owners and prospective pet owners should plan for the worst and budget accordingly. By doing so, they will circumvent this need to abandon pets when the going gets tough.

    As a society, we need to realize that pets are not disposable or expendable. They are steadfast companions that confer many smiles and many therapeutic benefits. Pet adoption is a serious commitment that requires time, energy and money. Owner accountability and responsible adoptions are imperative to ending this new wave of pet abandonment in the face of foreclosure.

    “”The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,”” Gandhi once said. Let’s treat our animals well, even in spite of how woefully the economy treats us.

    – Justin Huggins is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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