Left behind


Pet abandonment is on the rise. Here's how you can help struggling clients and their animals.

Recession. Foreclosures. Abandoned pets. You're probably sick of hearing the first two words and the last two might just make you sick to think about. There are no national statistics on pets relinquished due to economic reasons, but most animal shelters are reporting an increase in abandoned animals and requests for assistance, says Dr. Susan Krebsbach, a veterinary consultant with the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. "We'll probably never have accurate numbers because people are embarrassed to disclose financial hardships when surrendering pets at shelters," she says. "They're also leaving them behind in foreclosed homes or dropping them out in the country, again, because they're embarrassed or they fear their pets will be euthanized at a shelter."

Whatever the reason, these days many clients are left asking themselves, "What do I do for my pet?" Answer this question—hopefully, before it arises—by letting clients know they have options. Try one—or all seven—of these helpful tips.

Greg Paprocki

1. Emphasize preventive care to avoid serious health problems and large veterinary bills down the road. "Preventing heartworm is cheaper than treating it," Dr. Krebsbach says.

2. Offer payment options, such as pet insurance and third-party payment plans. Also, be creative. "If your client is a painter who can't afford surgery for his cat, maybe he could paint your reception room," she says.

3. Continue to discuss different levels of treatment. Always recommend the best care first, but provide affordable alternatives where appropriate.

4. Volunteer your services to rescue organizations once a week, month, or quarter. Every little bit helps.

5. Donate supplies. Did the clinic cat claw her way into another bag of food? Give that bag to a shelter or pet owner in need, Dr. Krebsbach says.

6. Educate clients on how to prevent behavior problems, another leading cause of relinquishment, Dr. Krebsbach says.

7. Provide temporary boarding for clients in transition. Another option: Give them information on organizations that can help, such as the Humane Society. If clients can't keep their pets, let them know animals stand a better chance of survival if they're surrendered to a shelter. They'll receive medical attention and food and they won't be exposed to the elements.

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