Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal All rights reserved. ------------------------------ Pictured, columnist John L. Smith July 16, 2008 Adoptions can't keep pace with unwanted pets in a struggling economy By John L. Smith Las Vegas Review-Journal The dogs of recession are howling. Can you hear them? Chances are good you will hear their desperate call soon as they bark for relief. Consider it one of the unintended consequences of the mortgage crisis and economic slump: Dogs and cats are turning up in increasing numbers at local animal shelters. Some are rounded up off the street or from vacant lots by neighbors or strangers sensitive to the pets' plight. Others are turned in by owners who tell shelter officials they've lost their homes and can no longer keep their animals. Shelter officials commonly hear all sorts of excuses from owners who wish to give up their pets. But until recent months they rarely heard from so many people who had lost their homes to foreclosure or their jobs to layoffs. For photographer and animal lover Denise Truscello, her sister-in-law's recent discovery of an emaciated blue pit bull sent her out into the desert near Decatur Boulevard and I-215 in search of the animal. When Truscello brought the dog to a local emergency animal clinic, it was little more than skin stretched over a rack of bones. Although the animal has gained eight pounds in recent days, its chances of finding a home are slim. "How could anyone do this to an animal?" she asks. "They just drop their dogs off. They should bring them somewhere. What is the point of leaving them behind?" Over at the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, adoption counselor D.J. Cogswell says the problem is the worst he's seen in the 10 years he's been associated with shelters. "It's sort of like this weird, double-edged sword," Cogswell says. "People are turning their animals in because they've lost their houses. And the houses are sitting empty and no one is moving in, so no one's adopting animals to give them new homes." Complicating matters is the fact the NSPCA has a no-kill policy, so when its kennel is full there's literally no room at the inn. Some pet owners, faced with taking their animal to a shelter that euthanizes unadoptable dogs and cats, leave them to fend for themselves. Cogswell first noticed the downward trend and common theme from distressed pet owners approximately six months ago. "We're taking in many more animals than we used to," he says. "With us, sometimes I have to say no because I'm crowded, and we don't have room, and we don't kill them here. "People get angry with me for not accepting their pet, but I'm just trying to do the best I can." At the Animal Foundation, co-director of operations Jim Seitz reports that surrenders and confiscations are up approximately 14 percent. Real estate agents have turned in pets left behind at abandoned homes. "Our adoptions are down," Seitz says. "We think it is primarily due to the economy, but a more global view is that they are moving into smaller places, and can't have an animal. The complex they're moving into doesn't allow pets." Author and journalist Cathy Scott, a longtime animal advocate, has experienced the trend personally. Her associates at Best Friends Animal Society recently received a spaniel and Maltese from a couple that had lost its home and jobs. The author of "Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned," a chronicle of the plight of the animals of New Orleans after the August 2005 hurricane and flood, Scott fostered the dogs until a permanent home could be found. "The fact is, you've got animals who had homes, and people with good intentions were taking care of them," Scott says. "Out of circumstances they couldn't control, they had to give up their animals. It inundates the shelters, and we already have a homeless (pet) population here in Las Vegas. When you have the economic problems in addition to it, it just exacerbates the problem. Unfortunately, we're a throwaway society, and animals are victims." For her part, Truscello continues to care for the abandoned pit bull. Trouble is, she already has a dog. She can't keep another. Sometimes, rescuing the animal is the easy part. With the economy flea-bitten, those real howls of desperation figure to only get louder. John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Posted by Author Cathy Scott at 6:56 PM