Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What this economy is doing to our pets

Pet ownership has changed over the years.No longer is there Britney Spears of the world going into a LA pet boutique and dropping $3000 on a Yorkie. Do something like that now and suffer the ire of PETA. Even our new president is being affected by the recent developments in the economy. He has realized that you cannot simply enter a pet store and 30 minutes later walk out with a new family member. The president has said that trying to find a new dog for his children is tougher than finding a Commerce secretary. He has been trying to model what a responsible new potential pet owner should be like during a recession, or any other time for that matter. During this recession we must take in consideration the needs of all the family members and wait until the household is calm before bringing a new pet into the family. He is also showing setting a good example by getting a pet from a shelter or rescue group.
Although the president’s choice of a new family pet, and whether it will be a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound has been all over the media, more importantly is the unstable future of our natin's pets in a time when there are those who can not pay for their bills.In our nation’s hayday, it was common to see stories that made us to giggle and shake our heads about how people would spend exorbitant amounts of money on their pets. They believed that their dogs actually appreciated the posh bottled water that was served to them in a crystal doggie glass. Stories of million dollar doggie trust funds, thousand dollar doggie hotels, pearl necklaces, and other examples doggie decadence covered the papers daily.
Now that our economy has sunken to new depths, stories about our beloved pets have changed and have become much more daunting and deeply troubling. The media all across our country have been reporting about local animal shelters becoming filled far beyond their capacity, often times being forced to euthanize a greater number of otherwise healthy pets simply because of space constraints. Still others have abandoned their pets in foreclosed houses or chained up in back yards of abandoned properties, left to fend for themselves, often times un able to reach food and water slowly starving to death at the end of a lead. The LA times even made pets and the economy their features story of the New Year. Pets are quickly becoming the luxury that can no longer be afforded.
This downslide comes on the heels of a previous upswing in adoption rates. For nearly a decade shelters and rescues have been seeing a steady rise in the rate of adoptions a starke difference from the overwhelming intake and decline in new adoption applications. There is no real way of knowing if we have seen the bottom of this staggering trend or if there is more despair to come. One thing is for sure, it is not getting any better.
Any progress made in the past of educating the public on the need to adopt from shelters instead of purchasing from a puppy store means nothing if our failing economy causes people to not be able to afford to own a pet or take care of the pets that they already have in their home. Vet costs alone have been a major factor in family’s decisions to give up their beloved pets. With the average vet visit costing in the range of $200 a visit, people often have to decide whether they can spend this month’s credit card payment and unless they find a way to reduce their credit card debt, they often have little choice but to give up their pet.
Another sign of the rapid decline of the luxury pet market was the cancelation New York’s Pet Fashion Week. With all this negative news on the pet industry it is noteworthy to say that our pets have numerious benefits. Vets across the nation have said that pets are an excellent way to lower blood pressure which helps justify spending the money spent on them.
The only way for many people to avoid having to make tough decisions such as of paying bills of buying food for Fido, is to get themselves in a position to weather the economic storm. For many people this could mean entering into a debt reduction program or other ways of lowering their household expenses. Often time’s bankruptcy is not an option for these embattled pet owners who do not want to deal with the court system, paying attorney fees nor having the black mark on their credit for up to ten years. Often times credit card counseling, which is run by the creditors, is not a viable option since in most cases the payments are no less and sometimes more then what they are paying at the moment. Again this makes the owner struggle with pet food not to mention vet bills as mentioned earlier.
Whatever solution you may decide, should you find yourself in this same situation, ensure that you educate yourself on the differences between the programs and fully understand the pitfalls. In most cases speaking to someone who can assist you in settling your debt can be helpful and is suggested over going it alone.
This debate over pets and the economy will likely go on for as long as there is an economic crunch in our nation. The underlying issue is that we either need to deal with the debt we have and survive this crisis, or resort to what many have and abandon the family pet. Where will this trend end? Will the next crisis cause us to decide whether to feed our kids and pay for medical insurance or leave them on the side of the street to fend for themselves.

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