Many communities offer emergency resources to keep pets and people together
American families continue to struggle to get by as inflation affects all aspects of our lives, including our ability to care for our pets.
Even as inflation has cooled slightly in early 2023, pet owners face higher costs, as pet food and other pet care categories continue to increase at higher rates than the overall Consumer Price Index, which stood at 6% for February. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pet food costs have increased by 15.2% from February 2022 to February 2023. Pets and pet products are up 11.3%, and pet services including veterinary care are up 10.5%, for the same period.
Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, the leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025, seeks to draw attention to emergency resources available in many communities to keep pets and people together.
Castle points out that leaders in animal welfare continue to worry that the combination of inflation, the economy and housing issues are pushing more pet owners to give up or consider giving up their pets. Anecdotally, many shelters report seeing increases in dogs being surrendered, and many are also seeing more requests to surrender pets, as well as increases in stray and abandoned animals.
According to a recent survey by veterinarians.org, “nearly a quarter of respondents (24%) have, in the last 12 months, considered rehoming their pet or surrendering their pet to a shelter or rescue as a result of inflation,” and “73% of pet owners believe a food pantry for pets would be helpful to them during the current period of inflation in the U.S.”
“We know that most Americans view their pets as members of the family, and the decision to surrender a pet to a shelter is gut wrenching for everyone involved, including shelter staff,” Castle said. “Families in crisis often feel they have no options to keep their pets, no matter how much they love them. Families should not feel they have no choice but to surrender their pets simply because they don’t know where to find temporary assistance with pet food, veterinary care, or behavior issues. This is especially critical as shelters across the country continue to operate over capacity. “
“We encourage people to seek out and accept assistance, and to try to find resources to resolve challenges so that surrendering pets is an absolute last resort,” Castle said. Here are some options:
Pet food pantries – Many shelters provide residents with emergency assistance to help them avoid giving up their pets due to a temporary financial crisis. Many more of these donation-based pantries have been established since the start of the pandemic, and they are grateful to receive donations from individuals and stores to sustain their programs. In addition, it’s worth checking human food pantries which often have supplies of pet food available as well. Sometimes a bag of pet food makes all the difference to empower a family to keep their pet.
Pet retention programs – Shelters often offer resources to help a person keep their pet in the home if they’re facing a crisis and considering surrendering it. Programs vary, but many shelters offer help with medical care, behavioral resources, temporary fostering, pet care supplies such as food, litter, leashes, collars, crates, and bedding, lists of pet-friendly housing, and may even help with installing or repairing fencing.
Vaccines and spay/neuter – High volume spay/neuter clinics and clinics affiliated with shelters offer very discounted spay/neuter surgeries. Follow your local shelters on social media, and call around to clinics to check prices and book appointments. Some of these clinics also offer free or low-cost vaccines and sometimes dentals. You can also check here to see what programs are available. Having pets spayed or neutered can also alleviate some troublesome behavior issues and health problems that can be expensive to treat.
Emergency medical care – Pet medical care can be expensive. If your animal needs a medical procedure that you can’t afford, there are organizations that may be able to help.
Adopting vs. buying a pet – When looking to acquire a pet, you can save money by adopting from a shelter or rescue group, rather than buying from a breeder, pet store or online retailer. Pets for adoption from shelters and rescue groups are usually already spayed or neutered, vaccinated and often microchipped. Those services can cost hundreds of dollars, so when you adopt a pet, you not only save a life, you save a lot of money, which leaves more in your budget for future pet care.
About Best Friends Animal Society
Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters from an estimated 17 million per year to around 355,000. Best Friends runs lifesaving programs across the country, as well as the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary. Working collaboratively with a network of more than 4,100 animal welfare and shelter partners, and community members nationwide, Best Friends is working to Save Them All®. For more information, visit bestfriends.org.
Temma Martin (she/her/hers)
Senior Strategist, Advocacy Communications
Best Friends Animal Society