If you already live with a pet, you’re familiar with the joy, the companionship, and the challenges of pet ownership.
Pets are good for our mental, physical, and emotional health, yet some people who want to share their lives with a companion animal face difficulties—especially financial and housing‑related—that make it difficult to live with a pet.
Efforts are underway to address some of the challenges people face when it comes to pet ownership and pet retention.
What are some of the ways organizations and individuals are stepping up to help?
And where can pet parents find resources to make sure they can live together with their pets?
In general, housing costs are going up, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made the crisis worse. This puts some people in a bind. What if they need to move to a place that won’t allow pets?
There are steps that pet parents can take to find pet‑friendly housing, including talking with private landlords, who might be more flexible than large rental property companies, and making a “pet resume” to introduce your pet to potential landlords and neighbors.
If your companion animal is a service animal or an emotional support animal, they are allowed to live with you—even in properties that have “no pets” policies. Both require documentation to prove that your animal has an important job to do.
Apartment dwellers who are considering bringing a dog into their home will need to do some thinking and planning to make sure the dog will be happy in that situation.
Of course, the cost of veterinary care is an important factor for all pet parents. Low‑income pet parents in particular are at risk of having to give up their pets if they can’t afford to care for them.
Sometimes, if a pet owner can’t afford necessary care, clinic staff will recommend the animal be surrendered to a shelter. That’s a painful decision that no one should have to face—and it just leads to another unhappy shelter pet.
It’s sad when an animal goes to a shelter. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that 6.3 million animals go to shelters every single year. These heartbreaking stories are harder to take when the animal was a family pet who had to be surrendered to the shelter due to unfortunate financial or other circumstances.
No one wants this outcome—pets are scared and confused going into a strange place without people they know and trust. Even worse, too many of the pets in shelters do not meet a happy end. Thankfully, the number of pets euthanized has decreased dramatically over the past decade. Still, almost a million animals are euthanized each year.
Why are so many pets going to shelters and never coming out?
When people suffer, our pets do too. That’s why a movement of nonprofit organizations, shelters, humane organizations, and veterinarians is growing to address the problems faced by struggling pet parents. They are recognizing that access to veterinary care is a social justice issue.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reported an increased need for affordable veterinary care due to the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, AVMA members were part of the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition (AVCC), which brought together professionals in 2016 who wanted to end disparities in access to veterinary care. Through their work, they released a report two years later called “Access to Veterinary Care: Barriers, Current Practices, and Public Policy,“ which was disseminated to “guide veterinarians, animal welfare organizations, legislators, community leaders, and others” who wish to increase access to veterinary care where they live, work, and play.
We want to connect pet parents with resources that can help them live happily with their pets.
If you are a pet parent struggling to meet financial obligations, you’re not alone. Where should you look for assistance?
We are encouraged by the way organizations and individuals are getting involved in the movement to prevent animals from being separated from their owners for financial reasons.
You can help by donating or volunteering for shelters, spay‑neuter nonprofits, humane organizations, or any part of the growing web of assistance that can help more people live happier and healthier lives with their pets.
We’re helping people like Robert, a retired Marine Corps veteran, stay in his home with Shadow, his service dog. “There’s a lot of seniors like myself who end up turning their pets in to kennels for adoption,” Robert says. “That’s where that organization came in handy, to step up and help us. I think it’s important that they realize their money has helped, even if it’s just one person, and maybe it will help more down the road.”