Higher housing costs are forcing more pet owners to give up their dogs

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Lisa Spillman can’t imagine life without her dog, an 8-year-old chihuahua mix named Rosebud. But she says her household expenses became difficult to manage.

“Everything — rent, groceries, dog food… it’s all going really high,” Spillman, 52, told TSWT.

And she’s not alone.

According to a new survey conducted by animal care site Rover, the majority of pet parents say they spend more on their animals than they did six months ago. According to the survey, more than 90% of pet parents in the US say they have noticed an increase in pet-related costs due to inflation, up from 71% who said the same in January.

Rover also found that to adapt to rising prices, pet parents are trading in things like food, treats and accessories for their dogs.

In some cases, owners have been forced to part with their furry best friends.

Spillman, who lives in Tucson, was forced to move after rents rose nearly 40%. Her only option was a place where no dogs would go.

“Losing my baby, who loves me so much, hurt a lot,” Spillman said.

Pima Animal Care Center in Tucson hears more often from pet owners that they have been forced to give up their animals due to housing problems, such as eviction or lack of affordable housing, said shelter director Monica Dangler. A year ago, housing-related surrenders made up 6% of childcare surrenders – now they make up 18%.

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Dogs wait to be adopted at the Pima Animal Care Center in Tucson, Arizona.

TSWT

“It’s staggering. And it’s, you know, sad that people have to surrender to things out of their control because of inflation and rising housing market costs,” Dangler said.

Although the number of animals entering shelters has fallen by more than 14% since pre-pandemic, shelters in the US are still overrun with animals, according to Shelter Animals Count, which tracks animal shelters across the country. According to the organization, so far this year 6% more animals have ended up in shelters than have left.

“Many shelters have reported in recent months that the reasons why people have to give up their animals have changed,” the organization’s executive director, Stephanie Filer, told TSWT. “They are now more likely to see housing or financial issues as the reason families — often in tears — are forced to part with their family’s pet.”

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Dog owner Lisa Spillman, 52, hugs her 8-year-old dog, Rosebud.

TSWT

In Kansas City, Missouri, the KC Pet Project expects to take in a historic number of pets this year — 15,000 — compared to about 10,000 on average in recent years, according to Chief Communications Officer Tori Fugate.

“We need the community to help us get through this — through adoptions, nurturing and just by helping us save lives,” Fugate said. “I strongly encourage you to contact your local shelter.”

So far, by 2022, 40% of dogs entering shelters have been abandoned by their owners due to housing or financial constraints.

“[Families] don’t want to give up their pets, but they come to us as a last resort because they have no other options,” Fugate said.

Exterior of KC Pet Project in Kansas City, Missouri

TSWT

A few months ago, Veronica Gurrola had to say goodbye to her two Miniature Schnauzers, Oreo and Cookie.

“It got to where I had to pick, you know, my kids, you know, about our pets,” Gurrola told TSWT. “Having a mortgage to pay … all those things … it’s true. And it seems like everything is going up — except, you know, paying.”

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A New York City shelter, Animal Care Centers of NYC, reported that 4,567 animals have been surrendered so far this year, a 22% increase from the same time last year.

“The economy has forced many people to move to different places,” said Katy Hansen, the shelter’s director of marketing and communications. “They’ve lost their jobs or they can’t afford the 30% rent increase — that’s one of the biggest reasons people have to give up their animals.”

For some, the separation is temporary. Both Spillman and Gurrola were able to get their dogs back.

Their local shelters have foster care programs that place dogs on short notice while owners get back on their feet.

“I’m very grateful for that,” said Spillman, who now lives in a pet-friendly home in Tucson with a backyard for Rosebud. “She’s very active. She’s missed us very much – as much as I miss her.”

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