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Vet Bemoans Economic Impact on Pet Ownership

Pet ownership has declined in recent years, and veterinarian Kate Freeman believes this has resulted in more animals in shelters and fewer homes with loving pets; however, she concedes that it also reflects responsible pet ownership/guardianship.

PRESCOTT, Ariz., Sept. 4, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — USA Today reports that the number of pets in American households has diminished by 2 million dogs and 7.6 million cats between 2006 and 2011. The article chalks this up to both economic and demographic reasons, citing financial limitations and fewer individuals living with families as catalysts for this decline. Veterinarian Kate Freeman believes that this reduction in pet ownership has had multiple effects on animals and pet owners, but that, ultimately, it indicates that many individuals are acting responsibly in terms of taking on pets only if they can afford it.

The article reports that this is the first decrease in households that have dogs and cats since 1991. Today, 36.5 percent of the homes in the United States have dogs and 30.4 percent of these homes have cats. Karen Felsted, of Felsted Veterinary Consultants, believes that the economy is to blame for the drop in pet ownership.

“It’s clearly the economy,” Felsted comments. “The percentage of households that owned at least one pet was down 2.4 percent […] It’s a significant number.” Significant, indeed, as this 2.4 percent represents 2.8 million homes that forwent the responsibilities of pet ownership.

Veterinarian Kate Freeman agrees that it seems likely the economy has played a major role in this decline. It is probable that the inability to care for pets—financially—is a prominent reason why owners would find new homes for dogs or cats or decide not to adopt new animals. The effects of such decisions, Dr. Freeman believes, are two-fold.

“When families decide not to adopt a pet they give up the quality of life they would have with this additional family member,” asserts Dr. Freeman. “Dogs and cats bring a great deal of joy into the homes of pet owners, and it is sad that the economy has gotten in the way of that. Unfortunately, this creates an even worse situation for the animals that are not adopted or that are surrendered. This drop in animal guardianship likely means that there are more animals in shelters. This not only puts a strain on the resources to which shelters have access, it may indicate that more animals are being euthanized due to space limitations, which is a tragedy.”

Nonetheless, Dr. Freeman applauds individuals for practicing responsible pet ownership/guardianship and not adopting animals that they cannot care for; however, she hopes that pet guardianship will rebound so that fewer dogs and cats are relegated to shelters.

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