This article is courtesy of Ohio Animal Advocates. For more information, visit www.ohioanimaladvocates.org.
Pets transcend racial and socio-economic bounds. There are 78 million dogs and 86 million cats in 80 million American households, and at least 19 million of those pets are living with families whose income level is below the poverty line. That is triple the number of dogs and cats who enter animal shelters each year. Ohio Animal Advocates is an organization that strives to help keep families and their pets connected, among other initiatives.
There are millions of working poor and middle-class families struggling with the cost of caring for their pets. Lack of access to information, advice, and direct animal care services produces hardships and heartaches for many pet owners in underserved communities.
The vast majority of people who live in poverty have to work extremely hard to provide even the most basic pet care. Yet, they are frequently accused of being irresponsible with their pets or subjected to fines and criminal charges because of issues that are largely out of their control. Many people in low-income neighborhoods rely on public transportation, and they cannot take their pets across town on the bus. An animal may be unaltered because there are too many barriers to having the surgery done. A dog may live outside because a landlord does not allow indoor pets, and affordable housing with pet-friendly options is hard to find.
Maddie’s Fund (www.maddiesfund.org) recently held webinars about how access to veterinary care is a crisis for those struggling. The number of low-income households is growing: 80% of families needing food stamps worked the year before. Unfortunately, the number of animals being turned in to shelters is also growing as many low-income families are unable to continue to care for their animals without help.
Also, many shelters across the state are seeing more senior pets being surrendered. Disturbingly, reasons being cited are allergies, moving and housing restrictions, cost and medical care, and behavioral issues. Sometimes it is because the owner has passed away. It takes a lot of time and attention to get senior pets re-homed. If a senior pet is having difficulty adjusting to a shelter environment, fostering can be an answer.
Everyone who wants to provide a loving home to animals deserves access to the resources that make pet-keeping possible. Pets enhance the lives of humans and the larger society. The bond people have with their pets should not depend on income, in which zip code one resides, or the language one speaks.
Ohio Animal Advocates works to advance policy efforts to provide additional resources for financially challenged families and their pets and is building a clearinghouse of online resources to assist families statewide in identifying needed resources for their animals. For example, the Pet Assistance Resources page (https://www.ohioanimaladvocates.org/pet-assistance) offers information about low-cost spay and neuter clinics, pet food pantries, and humane society programs that provide assistance for seniors and low-income families such as Cleveland Animal Protective League’s Project Care.
The key goal is keep pets with their families in their homes.