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Shelter sees big increase in animals

June 16, 2008 4:52:34 PM PDT
A south suburban animal shelter says people are giving away their pets in record numbers because they can no longer afford to feed and take care of them. Rising prices at the grocery store and at the gas pump are primarily to blame.

The Ramirez family may be adopting Stacie the cocker spaniel. Stacie and other animals like Max the cat are both victims of the bad economy and skyrocketing grocery and gas prices.

"We have had many people telling us they just lost their job or their spouse lost their job. Or with gas prices the way that they are everything is more expensive; they can't have a luxury of pet care," said Emily Gruszka, South Suburban Humane Society.

At the South Suburban Humane Society in Chicago Heights, workers usually get about 50 unwanted animals a week, but that number is rising. Last Saturday, people dropped off 18, and in a recent week, they had to take in a record 128 cats and dogs.

"One of the greatest challenges is that veterinary care is so expensive," said Gruszka.

Another challenge for struggling pet owners is the cost of pet food. In response, this humane society has increased its food giveaway program to twice a month in hopes it will reduce the amount of animals being dropped off at the full shelter.

"I worry that if people can't afford to take care of animals they have, they will think, 'I can't afford to adopt a new animal.' And that is going to create problems for shelters across the country," said Gruszka.

Chicagoland's largest humane society, Animal Welfare League, based in Chicago Ridge, also reported a increase in people giving up pets. In February, 321 pets were relinquished. In May, the number jumped to 684.

The Ramirez family says they've been evaluating the costs of shots, and food for a new dog and it not something they take lightly.

"It's actually kind of sad if you can't afford your dog and you have had your dog so long. For instance, Stacie is 6 years old so somebody had her a long time and could not afford her no more," said Camille Ramirez.

The average cost for a pet with food and medical bills is about $1,000 a year. Some organizations like the Animal Welfare League offer low-cost medical care.


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