Recession forcing pet owners to make tough decisions

Recession forcing pet owners to make tough decisions

Posted:
Currently, Young-Williams Animal Center has two dogs and a cat whose owners were forced to give them up because they lost their jobs. Currently, Young-Williams Animal Center has two dogs and a cat whose owners were forced to give them up because they lost their jobs.

By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXILLE (WATE) -- The recession in the U.S. economy is forcing Americans to cut back in a variety of different ways. For some people, the choice comes down to paying the bills or giving up a beloved family pet.

The phones are staying busy inside the Veterinary Social Work office at UT's School of Veterinary Medicine. A program that counsels pet owners dealing with grief is getting a new influx of calls.

"They have to make a horrible choice in whether to be able to put themselves in greater debt and or let a beloved animal go," says Dr. Elizabeth Strand, director of Veterinary Social Work.

The slumping economy is causing pet owners with sick animals to struggle to pay for their veterinary care and they're asking the university if there are programs to help with the costs.

"We are not able to provide that financial support because it doesn't exist for animals," Dr. Strand says.

Pet owners, social workers and veterinarians all have to deal with the grief when the cost of care makes euthanasia the only option.

"We definitely have times where we've had a tearful moment about things that we have experienced and we lean on each other and support each other through it," says Dr. Amy LeBlanc, director of Medical Oncology at the vet school. 

Additionally, local animal shelters are seeing an increase in pets being turned in because owners can't make ends meet.

Currently, Young-Williams Animal Center has two dogs and a cat whose owners were forced to give them up because they lost their jobs.

Sometimes there are clinical trials for pet diseases that are free to owners, but experts advise saving money for pet healthcare emergencies.

UT's veterinary social work program has a hotline for struggling pet owners. You can call (865)-755-8839 for counseling.

There's also a pet loss recovery group that meets every other Tuesday. Call the same phone number above click here. 

Young-Williams Animal Center is also reaching out to pet owners to help them care for pets rather than give them up.

The staff has set up a food pantry where owners can get free food in times of need. It's for dogs, cats, puppies and kittens. Come to the lost and found area to pick up food for your animals.

The animal center also needs donations. If you'd like to help, drop off pet food anytime Young- Williams is open. Those hours are:

  • Monday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Call (865)-215-6683 for more information. 

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