Animal shelters and rescue organizations across the country are noticing a troubling trend.  Animal surrenders are up and donations and adoptions are down.  Unemployment, foreclosures, and rising debt have created a “perfect storm” forcing people to choose between taking care of themselves and taking care of their pets.

Sadly since many pets are thought of as part of the family giving them up only compounds the stress and heartache felt during an already difficult time.  Fortunately there are options to reduce the cost of pet care which may provide help to families struggling to care for their pets.

Just as in other areas of our lives, sometimes sacrifices and adjustments are required to weather a financial storm.  The following tips can help you and your pet make it through these tough times together.

  • We all know the role a high quality, balanced diet plays in keeping a body healthy.  This is the same for humans or our furry friends; however in extreme cases you can forego the top shelf diet for a more affordable replacement.  While many may argue that buying the economy brand food might not be good for Fido’s health, it is far better to eat cheap food at home than trying to fight off a dozen strange dogs at an overcrowded shelter.Buy what you can afford and preferably in bulk.  You spent more money in the long run if you are running to the store every few days for the less costly smaller bag.  In the case of extreme financial hardship, most animal shelters would rather help you feed your pets versus surrender them.

  • Veterinary care can be a huge expense for pet owners.  There are many traveling clinics sponsored by ASPCA or other groups that allow you to keep your animals current on required immunizations for a fraction of the cost.  If you have a pet emergency which requires veterinary attention be sure to discuss your financial situation with your vet.While most vets require payment at the time of services, in extreme cases they may consider a payment plan.  Please remember if your animal has a serious health issue and you have no way to finance their treatment and recovery, you are doing a disservice to them if you allow them to suffer.  You might also open yourself to legal charges of animal neglect or abuse if you do not seek medical help.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If housing is an issue and you are struggling to keep a roof over your head, consider asking family or friends for assistance.  Having someone you trust care for your pet until you get back on your feet can take a huge burden off your shoulders while securing your own housing.

The most important thing to consider when facing the decision of giving your pet to a shelter is your ability to provide them with their basic needs.  When it comes right down to it, these extended members of our family really want very little in return for their love and companionship.  Food, water, shelter and the love of their human companions is all that any pet really needs.

Trisha Wagner is a freelance writer for, a debt community featuring debt forums.  Trisha writes regularly on the topics of getting out of debt and personal finance.