Tuesday, November 24, 2009

For the Love of a Pet

I am a "parent" of a 16 year old shar-pei/lab mix, Emma. She has been the bright spot and sore spot of my life these last 16 years and I dread to think of the day when she decides she has had enough to move on.

We have been through numerous moves, illnesses both her and me, divorce and she survived being hit by a car last year. I think this dog has more lives than cats and constantly amazes me at her resilience and devotion. I treat her well and just recently noticed some fat deposits which thankfully were non-cancerous and while there discovered a yeast infection in her ears. I still think that she has selective hearing and is in fact fine even with the blockage. Its like being with your older relative who might be a touch cranky and have a slight drinking problem but little compares to the genial nature and true love we have for each other.

As we approach the Holidays I think there is little right now I am thankful for and yet I realize I am luckier than most and I try to put that in perspective when I look a the big picture.

But if not for Emma I do think there would be little to look forward to when I come home. For many others that is also true but its also becoming a serious choice and effort to maintain and keep pets. As I said Emma has had a serious of unfortunate events this year, some tied to aging, some not that has escalated medical bills and costs. I too face a 10K dental bill this year and shudder on paying it off.

As a result pets are increasingly becoming abandoned and left at shelters or sometimes just deposited elsewhere. This crisis is escalating and I reprint an article from MSN regarding the situation.

If you are worried about keeping your pets healthy, talk to a Vet about sliding scale or finding ways to maintain their health without costly visits.. I know they want to work with you to avoid abandoning your loved one. Talk to shelters about what they offer especially when it comes to neutering. And if you are looking to do something for the holidays, volunteer, foster or donate to the shelters. Saving animal lives is a great gift. And find ways to give food, care or options to those in your lives that have animals and may need financial support. I think you can go without the latest Iphone, MP3 or whatever when it comes to loving and caring for woman and man and all humans best friends.


In recession, pets go homeless in droves

ELKHART, Ind.— Each day at five, staff members of the Humane Society of Elkhart County close the animal shelter and hold a meeting. And each day, like clockwork, they begin hearing a “thump, thump, thump” from outside.

That is the sound of pets being abandoned by owners who either do not want them or cannot care for them anymore.

Among the recent arrivals left in “drop boxes” — kennels that are accessible through doors on the outside of the facility — are Sweet Pea, a Chihuahua being nursed back to health from near starvation, a cocker spaniel named Cookie and a “family” of three pets left together — a dog, a cat and rat.

These animals add to the usual traffic of strays, rabid raccoons and animals rescued from abuse. When the drop boxes are full, the Humane Society finds pets tied up at the door, or — as was the case with a domesticated ferret — running around in the parking lot. Recently a whole litter of kittens was left in the Humane Society dumpster.

With as many as 600 or 700 animals arriving each month — sometimes 30 animals in a single day — the facility, which has space for only 266, is in crisis mode.

'Unsavory position'
The numbers are “staggering” and resources are stretched, said Ann Reel, the Humane Society of Elkhart County’s executive director.

“Since the economy has been like this, even rescuers have been down,” she said, referring to nonprofits that provide temporary homes until animals can be adopted. “(Now) we’re in the unsavory position of having to euthanize because we just can’t turn animals around fast enough.”

In one month alone, the shelter had to euthanize 600 animals, she said. Carissa Ray/msnbc.comJack O'Lantern, an orange tabby cat, was thrown from a car in front of the Humane Society of Elkhart County's shelter over Halloween weekend.
The Humane Society staff believes the poor economy is behind the high rate of abandonment — forcing people to give up pets when they run out of money to feed them or lose their homes and move into apartments or in with relatives. It’s impossible to know for sure because many people drop off their pets anonymously in the drop boxes and don’t fill out the forms that would help the Humane Society staff understand the animal’s health background and breeding. Since October 2008, the shelter has handled 5,783 animals, 42 percent of which were abandoned anonymously.

“For the most part, people just cram the animal in the door, get in their car and speed away as fast as possible,” said Reel. “Occasionally we have someone walk through the front door and say ‘I’ve been laid off my job, we’re moving into an apartment, we can’t find anyone to take them,’ and do it responsibly.”

Looming cuts?
The number of cats dropped off is especially high, perhaps because people have been reluctant to spend money to spay or neuter their cats under current economic conditions.

The Humane Society is struggling to meet the increased demand. Its budget for free spaying and neutering of cats was shot by April. The pet assistance program, which provides free pet food to help owners who are struggling financially, had 444 requests this year, about two-thirds of them first-time requests. This program is important because it keeps pets with their owners, avoiding unnecessary abandonment.

About half of the Humane Society’s $700,000 annual budget is provided by the county and cities, under a contract for animal control. But the organization is anticipating cuts in the next round of government budgets and, like many nonprofits, is casting about for new fundraising ideas, and trying to expand its donor base.Carissa Ray/msnbc.comA dog sits quietly at the Humane Society of Elkhart County while awaiting adoption.
Meanwhile, Reel brought in a fatigue specialist to work with the staff of 16.

“We are overwhelmed in trying to decide who stays and who will have to be eliminated,” she said, referring to animals that have to be euthanized. “It takes a toll on our staff. It is not a pleasant job. “

The staff also grapple with a year caring for and cleaning up after all these creatures — many which are in terrible condition by the time they are dropped off, with severe such maladies as ringworm, fleas and mange. That requires careful handling, and a lot of bleach to prevent the spread of disease.

When people ask Reel, “How can I help?” she tells them to “adopt, donate or send bleach.”

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