Weak economy leads to animal shelter crowding

November 19, 2010 Pet owners are dropping off their animals because they cannot afford to care for them.

Animal shelters around Chicagoland, but especially those in the west and northwestern suburbs, are seeing the very real result of the financial downturn.

With the holidays fast approaching it could get worse yet.

However, Lake in the Hills resident William Rieke may have found his new best friend.

"My neighbor's gotten good pets here, and I recently lost my wife, so I'm looking for a new companion," said Rieke.

The cat was among the growing number of animals that call South Elgin's Anderson Animal Shelter home because of a job loss or the loss of a residence forcing people to give up their pets.

Executive Director Sandy Shelby says her facility has been at capacity for months.

"We see other people that are going into shelters and they simply can't take the animal into the shelter where they need to go to get the help that they need," said Shelby.

Buddy, an energetic beagle mix, is one of the many pets reluctantly left behind by his owner.

"They were living in their car, so they had to bring him here to save his life," said kennel assistant Mike Davis. "Pretty much, they can't afford to feed themselves. They can't feed their dog."

The not-for-profit humane society has a policy of not euthanizing animals just to make room, so the shelter usually houses an average of 60 dogs and some 200 felines.

Those here say both animal shelters and animal control operators are seeing an increase in the number of people turning their cats and canines in at shelters.

Some shelters estimate that they are seeing a 25 percent increase in the number of pets given up by their owners.

Anderson Animal Shelter also uses foster homes to act as temporary housing for pets until a pet owner can get back on track.

They also try to help pet owners struggling to meet expenses by giving away pet food and kitty litter.

The public is urged not to give pets as holiday gifts. Getting a pet is a huge, lifelong decision, and should not be taken lightly.

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