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    Repiglican Roast

    A spirited discussion of public policy and current issues

    Location: The mouth of being

    I'm furious about my squandered nation.

    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    Demand spikes at pet food banks, discount vets

    Diana Bardsley wiped tears from her eyes as she recalled taking food off her plate to feed her beloved spaniel Hunter and two Siamese cats.

    Her greatest fear: that she could be forced to surrender the animals as she struggled to stretch her food stamps and Social Security income to meet the escalating cost of living.

    Some hope was restored after she visited a local food pantry, which has started offering free pet food to help owners keep their animals out of shelters.

    "I know a lot of people will probably say, 'Well, if you don't have enough money to be able to feed your animals, that you shouldn't have pets,''' said Bardsley, 53, of Franklin, as Hunter played in the living room with three of her grandchildren.

    But, "Just because financially you may go downhill a little or a lot, doesn't necessarily mean you have to give up the part of your family that you love,'' she said.

    For some pet owners, though, there is little choice.

    The rising costs of fuel, food and housing — and the rising tide of foreclosures — have generated a surge in requests for pet food from traditional food pantries and prompted some pet owners to give up their animals. Others are trying to save money by forgoing veterinary care.

    The Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge, Ill., has seen the average number of pet owners getting monthly rations from its pet food pantry increase by more than 50 percent since last year. Meanwhile, the number of people seeking service at its discounted veterinary clinic has more than doubled, said Linda Estrada, the group's director and president.

    "We could do it every day if we had enough food, I mean, that's how bad it's gotten,'' Estrada said. "The line goes all the way down the street'' as pet owners gather once a month for supplies.

    New type of clients
    In Santa Cruz, Calif., a pet food bank run by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has seen demand spike by about 20 percent just in the past six months. The facility typically hands out about 5,000 pounds of free pet food a month.

    "In the past, the demographics has been people who are disabled or on disability and senior citizens,'' said executive director Lisa Carter. "Nowadays, during the pet food program, I see people who are able-bodied and not able to find a job.''

    The deepening foreclosure crisis also is having an effect. A growing number of pet owners are abandoning their pets or surrendering them to shelters after losing their homes or being forced into housing that doesn't allow animals, said Brian Adams, spokesman for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center.


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