4 minute read

Pet Retention: Helping People Live Happily with Their Pets

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?

Addressing Housing Challenges

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.

Homeless Pets and Access to Veterinary Care

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?

  • Lack of planning. Sometimes, people adopt or buy an animal without a smart plan. Or, they find a pet that seems to have no home, despite efforts to find their people. A smart plan includes knowing how long the pet may live under the best of circumstances, understanding the cost of care (daily care to veterinary care), a pet sitter backup plan, and what it takes on a day‑to‑day basis to keep a pet healthy and happy living with their people.
  • Owner’s health crisis or financial difficulty. Most pets do best when they continue to live with the caretaker they are bonded to. Sometimes things happen that make this difficult. The COVID‑19 pandemic led to huge job losses, death, and long‑term illness. Some pet parents found it difficult to care for their pets and keep up with other essential expenses like rent and groceries. If people don’t have access to assistance or savings, they sometimes end up surrendering their pets to a shelter. 
  • Homelessness. Even before the pandemic, more than 580,000 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States. It becomes extremely difficult to take care of pets while living on the streets or in a vehicle and while also caring for human family members. 

The Struggles Are Connected

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. 

Resources for Pet Parents 

If you are a pet parent struggling to meet financial obligations, you’re not alone. Where should you look for assistance?

  • Veterinarians. One of the first places to check to ask if financial assistance is available is your local veterinary clinic. Some of them have funds they can use to offset the cost of care, and some may have a list of organizations that provide financial assistance. But you won’t always find help at the first place you call. For example, when Rafael was worried about a large lump on his dog Sadie’s leg, he called several clinics before a bilingual receptionist helped him connect with One Health Organization’s Veterinary Care Voucher program. Rafael got help to pay for a surgery that saved Sadie’s leg.
  • Your local humane society or pet rescue groups. If you have a humane society or other pet rescues in your area, they may have a list of veterinary clinics that work with them. They may be the best place for you to start, especially if you don’t live in Northeast Ohio. 
  • One Health Organization. Yes, that’s us! Thanks to our generous donors, One Health Organization has helped thousands of pet parents in Northeast Ohio provide needed veterinary care for their pets. We have also compiled many resources for people living with dogs and cats, including veterinarians who participate in the Voucher program, on our website.

All Hands on Deck

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.”

Download the Pet Parent's Guide to Caring for Your Dog or Cat