Local News

Economy forces pet owners to make tough choices

Posted January 15, 2009 3:54 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— As the economy has worsened, staff at the SPCA of Wake County have seen arrivals soar as struggling families were forced to surrender pets.

"We have seen more animals left at the doorstep or tied to the light pole with notes that say, 'I'm sorry. I cannot take care of this animal,'" said Hope Hancock, executive director of the shelter.

Ashlea Anderson, an SPCA of Wake County adoption counselor, said she talks just about every day to someone who can no longer afford to keep his or her pet.

"We always have owners surrender their pets, but there is a difference in this," Hancock said. She described the decision to surrender a pet as "heart-breaking. It hurts. It's painful."

More pets have been coming into the shelter – although officials can't say how many surrenders are because of the economy – and there have been fewer adoptions.

In response, the SPCA has launched two programs to help pet owners with the daily care their companions require – a monthly food pantry and spay and neuter clinics.

The goals are to have more animals spayed and neutered so they don't have a growing population of homeless pets and also to help people feed their pets so they can keep them.

The Pet Food Pantry opened in August to provide assistance to families struggling with the cost of dog or cat food.

Through December, the pantry helped more than 3,000 animals and shared more than 30,000 pounds of donated food, Darci VanderSlik, community outreach coordinator for the SPCA, said.

The pantry is open the third weekend of every month and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The next pantry is Saturday at 8 a.m. at the Wake SPCA at 200 Petfinder Lane in Raleigh.

Pet owners can receive up to a month's worth of free food, and the only requirement is proof that their animal has been spayed or neutered.

In January, the SPCA began offering discounted spay and neuter clinics. On the first day, clients were lined up out the door, Hancock said.

"It is very, very clear to me that there is a resounding need for this clinic," she said.

The clinics are open four days a week and cost up to $45 per animal.