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July 16th, 2008
08:00 AM ET

The Price of Pets

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/15/art.foreclosed_dog.jpg width=292 height=320]
Steve Turnham
AC360° Producer

OK so you've cut the extra trips, stopped buying new clothes, trimmed the food budget, but still the family budget's in the red. What next, the family dog? Sadly, for some, the answer is yes.

We're starting to hear stories about people being forced by the rough economy to give up pets. The Humane Society even has a term for it- "pets in foreclosure." Numbers are hard to find, but the early reports from animal shelters and rescue leagues look bad.

There is help out there, and as we investigate just how serious a problem this is we'll be sure to get the experts' advice on how to keep the cost of owning a pet down. But for now, if you or anyone you know is facing this kind of decision, we'd love to hear about it.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Economy
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Jo Anne Cummings

    Hard to think of getting rid of your pet because of the economy. When procuring a pet a commitment was made. I have exotic birds whose food has increased 47% in one year, but I would not put them up for adoption ever!!!!!

    July 16, 2008 at 10:45 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    I have 3 cats – well 2 if you don't count my daughters cat who boards with us while she is at school. All 3 of them are so special in their own way and I would miss them horribly if I had to give them up. Until I read this post I had never thought of the possibility that you might be in a situation where you would have to give your pets up so it kind of unnerved me to think of that possibility. I'd rather give up my brothers than my cats. Silly I know but true.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 16, 2008 at 8:16 pm |
  3. vern-anaheim ,ca

    i have a 14 year old lab mix and she is one of the family and loves you regardless of your station in life.i would never give her up and have always found a way to care for her even if it meant less for me

    July 16, 2008 at 8:01 pm |
  4. Loretta from California

    God forbid I should ever have to give up my Mr. Willerbee. He is a beautiful little Pom and I love him as if he were my child. He works hard to put a smile on my face. I don't think I could do it.

    July 16, 2008 at 7:48 pm |
  5. Larry

    I thought it was a 'remarkable' gesture when Leona Helmsley left her $8 billion to the care of dogs; of course her free-loadin relatives want the $$; let them get jobs.

    July 16, 2008 at 7:22 pm |
  6. Jan from Wood Dale, IL

    Since I volunteer at our local food pantry, I saw that many of the families that came in hoping to find pet food, too. It doesn't take much to print up some flyers and ask for donations. Now we get donations not only from the very generous people who live in our community, but also several of the business owners, too.

    Unfortunately there aren't enough apartments that allow pets. If someone is faced with having to make a move, check with your local pet shelter. They can usually provide a list of apartments that do accept pets. For annual vaccinations, check again with pet shelters and local vets to see if you can negotiate or barter for the cost (meaning volunteer time or if you have a professional skill, build shelves, do plumbing, etc.)

    Hope some of these tips help.

    July 16, 2008 at 7:11 pm |
  7. Jim, Las Vegas, NV

    My dog loves me, even if my wife doesn't! I wouldn't give him to a shelter any more than I'd file for divorce from my wife. I donate to Best Friends to help those poor dogs left homeless for whatever reason.

    July 16, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  8. GF, Los Angeles

    @ Carolina my statement is not a joke. It's so easy to judge others and not be in their shoes. I was born in the United States so I view dogs not as a meat source however my parents are from China so they do and would eat dog again because it tastes good. Pigs, cows, and chickens are some people's pets as well yet they are consumed in mass quantities daily in America and there is no backlash against it since it's part of our culture but to hear another culture consuming another meat source (dogs) they're instantly labeled as backwards or barbaric. Unless you're a vegan too – don't be so quick to judge.

    July 16, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  9. lisa

    It can be done-I feed and care for over 60 cats and kittens a day-
    without ANY outside help-I am Not a non for profit. I work a low wage job and I buy my cats the best food..How do I do this?? I drive an older vehicle-I don't have cable, satelitte, or a computer at home. I don't get my nails done, nor do I take vacations, I don't own a cell phone or a blackberry or any other frivalous things. That is how I do it!! and would not trade this life for anything.l

    July 16, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  10. Sharon from Indy

    Steve:
    Let's get realistic. If there was a choice between my children eating or my pet eating during a famine, my kids would win.

    July 16, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  11. Ed

    Well, I took a part time job so I could keep my two dogs. I was NOT going to give up either of them.

    July 16, 2008 at 4:20 pm |
  12. Janna

    Anne & Amanda, One of the reasons I have cats is because they are supposed to be low maintenance. Yes, we can plan on food/care costs, but the unexpected can happen too. Like Michael said, vet bills can be insane. One of my cats turned out to be epileptic and needs daily meds and extra vet visits/tests. When I was a waitress, I ate my meals at work so I could afford vet bills. I can understand how someone might have to give up a pet who has these unforeseen high costs. Very sad, but understandable.
    Another problem is the already underfunded animal care facilities & agencies are no doubt seeing less and less donations coming in as well.

    July 16, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  13. Lisa

    A lot of people are having to give up their pets as they move into rentals that don't allow them as a result of their home being foreclosed upon. There is a simple solution – charge a pet deposit. Many rentals already do that, but so many do not. And what those landlords/property managers have not yet understood is the stress-reduction factor those pets bring to their owners. I believe studies have been done that blood pressure drops when one is petting their dog/cat/(insert type of pet). In a time when stress is already high, we do not need additional stress added. To many (such as myself) these pets are our children. We shouldn't have to chose.

    I do wonder how compassionate of country we have become ...

    July 16, 2008 at 4:00 pm |
  14. Carolina

    i have a dog and a rabbit that i love like children. the cost of their food goes up weekly and it kills me to go shopping but i know i would not let them suffer nor would i let them go. i'm cutting back on my spending to make sure i have enough money to take care of them. i see people everyday trying to find a new home for their pets because the animal shelters are to full. what hurts the most is the look on the dog or cats face because they can sense what is going on. so to all of those owners who have to give up their pets i am so sorry because i know it's a hard choice. to the few people who make jokes about eating pets would you eat your children? this is a serious issue for some people and you should be a little more open minded.

    July 16, 2008 at 3:03 pm |
  15. cocoa fl

    Check out the case in Brevard Co. Florida where the girl was being evicted from her home and left the dog there to starve to death. She now faces punishment in criminal court. So sad.

    July 16, 2008 at 2:47 pm |
  16. Naomi & Scott, Canada

    I have 2 cats and 1 dog. Both cats are from the SPCA and my dog was privately purchased. I live with my husband, and though we struggle by times neither us nor our animals ever go to bed with empty stomaches..
    I believe all of you have vaild points. Animals are not cheap. Take my youngest, Aiyana for example, she accidentally came into contact with bleach and burned part of her tongue off and had to go to the vet. The cost? Well, luckily the vet discovered right away that her mouth was infected (we did not realize she had contact with bleach until Scott remembered using it) so we paid approximately $100 and have to go back again in two weeks which should be another $100. Since we adopted her, she has cost us approximately $1,000 ($300 two days after her adoption her which alone cost us $85, to get her health up to where it should be).
    Chase, our orange cat, needs to be shaved, $50+ depending if he can handle himself at the groomers, if not, he has to go to the vet and they charge approx $90.
    When my dog Blayze needed to be fixed, it cost about $250 plus getting him micro-chipped.. To feed all our animals is about $100/month.
    To keep up with the amount of litter, about $30/month. I have a student line of credit to repay, as well as other debts, as does my husband yet these animals are our 'children', each with a unique personality and all very affectionate.
    I am fortunate to have a caring family, as the youngest of 5, I know my parents or one of my siblings would help me out by either lending me money or taking care of the animal for us for a little while. I just feel sometimes that if at 20 I can afford this + housing + food + transportation without a huge salary, then the perhaps budgeting would help? Perhaps people should remember that animals are not just Christmas presents? They are 10-20 years of commitment, depending on the animal and when YOU adopt them, then YOU are responsible for their health and well being. If I were to lose my job today, my husband and I would re-adjust our budget to fit everything in. He currently works 4 days a week and attends school 30 hours a week and we lack nothing that stops us in any way from taking proper care of Aiyana, Blayze and Chase.

    July 16, 2008 at 2:44 pm |
  17. Melissa, Los Angeles

    @ Michael, NC I feel your pain regarding the money situation since you're just a college student. The best thing to do is to find the kitten a new home with people who can afford to care for her medical issues. Putting yourself into more debt before you're out of school is not a good idea.

    Owning a pet is a privelege and not a right – if more people understood that – we wouldn't have so many abandoned animal issues.

    July 16, 2008 at 1:14 pm |
  18. Amanda, TX

    I have had a cat for 5 years and she is the first animal that I have raised by myself. She had to stay overnight in the vet's office because she was having problems and my apartment felt so empty without her. There is no way I could give her up. She's not expensive to take care of either.
    $12/year for shots
    $30 every few months for food
    $20 every few months for litter (roughly)
    Plus my husband and I are careful with our money and live in an affordable apartment. I guess some people don't see any other way to go other than to cut that extra spending because of a pet.

    July 16, 2008 at 1:10 pm |
  19. Tracey - Boston, MA

    I was living in Novi (no veye – suburb of Detroit) Michigan when I abandoned my home (trailer) ; I had no cable nor internet and the only phone was a cell. I'm not a drinker or smoker (I'm not taking offense) or user.

    I moved into a friend's basement (she is allergic to cats) and I had no where else to go. I wasn't collecting unemployment and working as a waitress and not very good at it either. A few months later filed for bankruptcy.

    In Detroit there isn't any REAL public transportation to speak of so I had to keep my car for a job.

    All this happened in 2004. September, 2005 I moved to Boston; the car lease was ending and out of another job with the benefits ending as well.

    I worked as a temp for over two years (the last two years I'v been alone in the city) before I landed my current job. I now have time off, able to have a real savings, I volunteer and make donations to a religious organization. It's been a long four years. With no family to help, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who could give assistance in their own way.

    July 16, 2008 at 12:41 pm |
  20. Michael, NC

    This one really hits home for me and my roommate. She bought a baby kitten a month ago, and we thought it would be an affordable pet after my dog died of old age, breaking my heart. Think again. The cat (named Gizmo) is shy, but is extremely fun and playful, even around new faces; but he has urinary tract problems so he hasn't been able to pass ANY fluids on his own. The poor thing has spent almost all of his childhood in the vet office, and he has already cost us over $1,200! I am a big animal lover (especially my last dog molly, a heeler/collie mix) so I really don't want anything out of my control to happen to my roommate's cat, but we are just college students with rent and car payments due...how are we to afford the constant costs of our newest member of the family?

    July 16, 2008 at 11:56 am |
  21. GF, Los Angeles

    @ Larry unless you're a vegan – who are you to judge the Chinese are backwards for eating dog? Cows are sacred in India so do you eat beef and other meat that once belonged to a living animal? My parents have eaten dog before (yes they're Chinese) and it tastes even better then beef. I'll just take their word for it.

    Living here in Los Angeles where the foreclosure rate is extremely high, our shelters are being overrun with animals that were usually left in a foreclosed home. I can't believe that some of these owners would abandon their pet in the foreclosed house instead of taking it to a shelter. Maybe we're the backwards nation for taking these animals for granted.

    July 16, 2008 at 11:54 am |
  22. anne,newfoundland canada

    I just do not understand nor comprehend,how,even in tough times,people could choose to do this to a member of their family.

    I am sure that back in the years of the wars,and Depression,there were people who still kept their pets under tough times.

    Surely there must be something else that could be sacrificed or cut back into a person's budget,rather than just discard a much loved pet this way!

    I am sure,if these people REALLY looked,there would be a way to do SOMETHING less drastic than this.

    To me,it seems a cop out,and the poor animals are being sacrificed.

    People KNOW,or should anyway,the costs associated with owning and looking after pets.

    Just my opinion here,and people may not agree with this,but to me,I am sure that these same people who get rid of their pets are probably still buying their cigarettes,and beer,and other useless things,with no thought of cutting THOSE things out of their life!

    I guess if that is the case,we know their priorities,and they did not deserve the animal in the first place-therefore,it deserves to be with a better person!

    July 16, 2008 at 11:22 am |
  23. Ellee

    Maybe Americans will be eating dogs one day if the price of gasoline and food keeps going up. Let's see, ummmm . . . Chien a l'orange or Puppy Scallopini, or maybe even a nice doggie burger with fries. Beats starving.

    July 16, 2008 at 10:45 am |
  24. Larry

    China, apparently, doesn't have a dog problem; they've taken 'dog' off the menu for the Olympics so as not to offend visitors. Shows what a backward nation they are; eating dogs, ugh!

    July 16, 2008 at 10:29 am |
  25. Michele O - B'ham

    I just bought a puppy in April and with the fees of buying her and vet bills for shots and examinations to make sure she's healthy and all the toys/crate/treats/food/etc. that puppies need – we've paid over a $1000.00. I would not give her away for anything though. She has become a part of the family even in the short period of time we've had her. I would not allow my child to starve if she was costing so much money that I could not pay bills or buy food for my human family though. I can understand if people have to give up a beloved pet for lack of funds. It's sad but they are doing what they have to do. I am just lucky, right now, that I can afford our lovely little girl lab Bella and don't have to make that choice.

    July 16, 2008 at 10:21 am |
  26. Bev C Town of Tonawanda, NY

    Tracey – you have my regards for the loss of your cats. I know exactly how you feel. I lost my two best friends to death and am still dealing with the loss.

    However, I did adopt two more cats and they are just wonderful. I would never give them up. My husband, daughter and I would starve before we would give up Scarlett and Tabitha. We would find a way to keep them. They mean more to us than some of our family members! I am glad there is help though for some who do have to give up their pets.

    July 16, 2008 at 10:20 am |
  27. Tracey - Boston, MA

    I was in this situation four years ago. I had two cats: Seven of Nine and Keyser Soze.

    Seven (of Nine) was pitch black except a few white airs on her chest, sleek and sweet but aloof and did not want to be held.

    When I returned Seven back to the same Humane Society I retrieved her, I cried all the way home. While I was trying to go to sleep that evening, all I could do is cry: she must be so scared. "Why did she bring me here? What do I do that was so wrong? Will I see her again ?"

    Keyser was my first and my love. He was a tabby and had the most beautiful coloring. His nose was white from the middle of his forehead down to around his gowls that made them look even pudgier. He was very strong and you could hear him purr feet away. He would sleep with me; cuddle up between my shoulder blades, that was comforting. I held onto him as long as I could then gave him to a neighbor before I abandoned my home.

    I haven't cried for Keyser yet; I'm afraid. Afraid I will lose my sanity because he was my tempest in the storm. I have to stop now, I can't see the keyboard.

    July 16, 2008 at 9:20 am |
  28. Becky, PA

    I would never give up my pet. They are apart of the family, and taking care of them is just as important as taking care of your family.

    July 16, 2008 at 8:48 am |
  29. Minou, New York City

    Hi Steve,
    I don't know anyone who has given up his pet, but I know my dog is costing me a lot more than is comfortable.
    She's a Pomeranian, and I keep her coat short in the summer. I now do it myself, because a professional groomer in NYC costs at least $70. I do take her to the vet, but I'm actually haggling over what to pay. Just the visit alone is $80 and that doesn't include anything else but putting her on the vet's table.
    It's so sad that people have to give up their pets, but ultimately, it's a very loving thing to do: if you can't afford to take care of a pet properly, you give it to someone who can.
    On the other hand, a shelter? Don't they euthanize dogs after a few days if they can't find a new owner?
    What a difficult subject. I could never give my dog away. I'd starve myself before I do....but that's just me.

    July 16, 2008 at 8:46 am |
  30. Cindy

    It is so sad that people would have to give up their pets just to be able to live these days! I don't know that I'd be able to do it. I'd have to come up with some other thing to do.

    Thankfully there are places out there that will help people having financial problems to enable them not to have to give away their animals. After all they are a part of the family.

    Cindy...Ga.

    July 16, 2008 at 8:16 am |