05 July 2009

luxury pets? part 2

In April, I wrote about pets being abandoned in Britain due to the economic climate. It seems Australia isn't immune. From The Age (Melbourne)

Abandoned pets the downturn's collateral damage

Mark Russell
July 5, 2009
Jessica Steen, 19, had to give up one of her pet dogs.
Jessica Steen, 19, had to give up one of her pet dogs. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

ANIMAL welfare groups have blamed the financial crisis for a dramatic rise in the number of pets being abandoned.

Thousands of dogs and cats have been dumped by owners who have lost their jobs or been forced to sell their homes and move to rental accommodation where pets are banned.

The State Government's Bureau of Animal Welfare manager, policy and education, Tracy Helman, said tough economic times had forced an increasing number of people to give up their pets.

"We're certainly seeing people who feel they can't afford to have pets," Ms Helman said.

"Generally, pet owners have made a lifetime commitment to that pet and to give it up is emotionally distressing. If they have a family, it can be hard to explain to a child why the pet has to go."

Ms Helman said it was ironic that pets were being dumped when research showed they made a positive difference to an owner's physical and emotional wellbeing in tough times.

She said more people would be able to keep their pets if landlords and real estate agents relaxed their "no pet" policies for rental properties.

Pets are part of the family for 63 per cent of the 7.5 million households in Australia, and 2.8 million of these animals are dogs.

In 2007-08, there were 19,087 dogs and 17,870 cats admitted to RSPCA shelters in Victoria, compared to the 17,395 dogs and 13,989 cats given up the previous year.

Nationally, the RSPCA received 161,994 animals in 2007-08 compared to 144,400 the previous year. There were 70,514 dogs, with 23,772 euthanased (33 per cent); 69,034 cats, with 42,731 euthanased (62 per cent) and 22,446 other animals, with 11,015 euthanased (49 per cent).

The RSPCA estimates it costs between $1200 and $2000 a year to keep the average dog.

The organisation does not keep a list of the reasons given as to why pets are being abandoned, but animal shelters say owners are frequently using the financial crisis as an excuse.

RSPCA Victoria's animal shelter manager Andrew Foran said more pets were being surrendered because of the "financial squeeze".

"This is a very difficult time, especially for people who have a strong bond with their animal, which makes it devastating to have to give them up," Mr Foran said.

North Melbourne Lost Dogs' Home managing director Graeme Smith said the increase in dumped pets was directly linked to the rising national unemployment rate. He said the jobless rate and mortgage defaulters could lead to a 25 per cent rise in the number of pets abandoned by Christmas.

Pet owner Jessica Steen, 19, of Ivanhoe, was recently forced to give up her dog, Billy, a Dalmation cross she found at the Lost Dogs' Home.

Ms Steen, a dog groomer, had had Billy for four months when she realised she could no longer afford to pay for its food. "It was awful. I cried a lot," she said.

This is heart-breaking.

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