Walk into any pet store and one thing is clear: people adore their dogs and cats. Dog and cat guardians love nothing more than to pamper their best friend with toys, treats, collars, harnesses, beds, grooming needs … really anything you can think of. And rightfully so, cats and dogs are awesome!

Not surprisingly, the pet business is booming. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), the pet industry in the United States was a 66.75 billion dollar industry in 2016, with 2017 projected to reach 69,36 billion dollars.

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But sometimes, even though many consider their pet their best friend and would do anything for them, people fall on hard times. Maybe there is a death in the family and budgets become tight. Perhaps a person suddenly lost their job. There are numerous reasons why a person may have difficulty affording a pet, with many going without food themselves before letting their pet go hungry.

This is a tough topic for many pet guardians to think about, but it’s an important one. With 70 million stray animals living in the United States, only about six to eight million cats and dogs enter the nation’s 3,500 shelters every year, according to the Humane Society of the United States. That evens out to about five homeless animals for every homeless person in the U.S. 

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One way to help solve the pet overpopulation crisis is to first try to keep pets in their homes and out of the shelter system. There are many resources available for those who may be struggling. 

Pet Food Banks

If you are having financial trouble, the first place to start is to see what resources your local animal shelter or rescue group offers. Many animal shelters understand that people struggle financially and offer pet food assistance through local food pantries to help ease the burden.

You can do a simple Google search for “pet food banks” and see the many resources in your area. What’s more, The Humane Society of the United States maintains a list of national and local organizations that offer not only free pet food, but low-cost spay/neuter services, and temporary foster care if you need help. Call or visit your local animal shelter and ask if they have a pet food pantry. If they don’t, offer to start one. Talk to your local grocery store about saving dented and newly out-of-date pet food items and donating them to an animal shelter. Setting up a pet food pantry in your local community is a great way to help your fellow citizens and furry friends. 

Meals on Wheels offers free dog and cat food to clients, as part of their Pet Assistance Grant program funded by the Banfield Charitable Trust. Not all local Meals on Wheels programs offer pet food, so be sure to check with your local program.

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Veterinary Assistance 

It goes without saying that pet guardians want the best treatment for their dog or cat, but the cost of veterinary care can quickly add up. According to the 2016 APPA survey, pet guardians in the U.S. spent over $15.95 billion on veterinary care alone. And these costs can leave pet guardians worrying about how they will afford the care for their pets needs, or if they will be faced with having to euthanize their pet if they can’t afford costly cancer treatments or life-saving surgical procedures.

Many groups offer veterinary care assistance and the below tips might help too:

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  • Set up a payment plan with your vet. Ask your veterinary office if a weekly or monthly payment plan is possible.
  • Use a vet in a smaller town. Vets in smaller towns tend to charge lower fees.
  • Check out local veterinary schools. Many run low-cost clinics for limited income clients. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s website and VeterinarySchools.com have lists of veterinary schools by state.
  • Care Credit. Many veterinarians accept Care Credit. CareCredit is a credit card specifically for health care expenses, including your pets.

Although it may not help if you are facing a current emergency with your pet, considering the options with pet insurance is never a bad idea. If you’d like to have your cat or dog spayed or neutered but don’t think you can afford the surgery, there are many shelters, veterinarians, and organizations who are willing to help. You can find low-cost or free spay and neuter services in your area by searching the ASPCA’s database. Consulting your veterinarian about the benefits, or potential risks, of spaying or neutering your pet is a great place to start if you are still unsure about this procedure.

Other Resources 

You could try raising funds of a platform such as GiveFoward (a small percentage of funds raised is charged) or YouCaring (free). Selling items on eBay or hosting a yard sale are also great ways to make some extra cash to help pay for your dog or cat’s needs. Red Rover is a non-profit organization that provides emergency shelter, as well as disaster relief services. For more information on the services they offer, visit their website.

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As pet guardians, it is our responsibility to make sure we are doing what’s best for our beloved pets. Thankfully, when we fall on hard times, there are many resources available both locally and nationwide to help keep our furry friends happy and in their loving homes.

Do you have any resources or stories to share? Tell us in the comments!

Lead image source: Jay Melnick/Flickr