Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hard times take toll on pets, owners

The slumping economy is claiming yet another victim: pets.

Cash-strapped people are increasingly surrendering their animals to shelters across the Tampa Bay area, citing foreclosures, unemployment and a lag in wages as reasons.

The Tampa Bay Humane Society, which houses about 350 animals, has been forced to turn people away because of a lack of space, said Sherry Silk, the group's executive director.

Last month, the "no-kill" shelter in Tampa received 25 percent more requests than last year from people wanting to give up their pets because of money problems, she said.

The shelter currently has a waiting list of 145 people who want to give away their pets.

As a way to help more people keep their pets, the society started a feeding program. Last month it served 260 animals. This month, the need jumped to 743. The food comes from shelter supplies and donations.

"In the last month or two is when we've had to turn people away," Silk said. "I don't know what to do because people are relying on us."

Carol Moore, a Lutz resident with four cats, is among those in need. She lost her job as a gas station attendant three months ago.

"I was short on bills, short on rent, short on electricity," said Moore, 25, a mother of one. "I had my cell phone turned off."

For now, the feeding program helped her keep her cats, but she isn't sure about the future.

At the SPCA Tampa Bay in Largo, animal admissions are up 13 percent over last year, said Marissa Segundo, spokeswoman for the SPCA.

The shelter, which now houses more than 100 cats and 50 dogs, hasn't had to turn anyone away, but it is seeing more people listing "foreclosure" or "lost home" on relinquishment forms.

"People come in in tears," Segundo said. "They don't want to give up their pet, but they know if they do the pet will have a second chance."

The owners aren't the only ones affected by the split, she said.

Many pets come from families with kids or from quiet homes where they were showered with attention. The transition to shelter life can be traumatic.

On a recent day at the SPCA, a Siamese mix kitten hid behind a desk in the socialization room. "Kitty" was dropped off only hours earlier because her owner was being evicted.

Volunteer Terry Arsenault tried to coax the gray-eyed cat from her hiding place, but she balled up in a corner instead.

Arsenault thinks she'll find a home quickly but isn't sure.

Adoptions, while steady at Tampa's Humane Society, have dropped by 9 percent at the SPCA this year.

"Having a pet in your home is not cheap," Segundo said.

Private shelters aren't the only ones feeling the sting.

Greg Andrews, operations manager for Pinellas Animal Services, said pet intakes are up. He suspects many are due to financial problems, but noted that people who drop off pets are not required to give a reason.

"It's terribly embarrassing for them to say that's why," Andrews said. "They love their animals, but they can't take care of them anymore."

Last year, the shelter accepted 26,000 animals. He expects the number to be much higher in 2008.

The shelters try to find adoptive homes for animals that express a good temperament by transferring many to private shelters and pet stores.

The process has helped keep county euthanizations from spiking.

Still, Hillsborough Animal Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan warns owners that finding their pet a new home is not certain.

"We let you know in huge signs how many animals come in and what your chances are of this pet actually getting adopted," Ryan said. "We ask you to consider other options, because the dog may be put down."

Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at or (727)893-8828.

Hard times take toll on pets, owners 10/30/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 3, 2008 6:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays sure made it interesting Sunday, taking an early lead, watching their beleaguered bullpen blow it, rallying to tie in the ninth, battling the Twins to take a lead in the 14th then giving it up again.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  2. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  3. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.
  4. South Korea military: North Korea fires unidentified projectile


    SEOUL — North Korea launched a ballistic missile early today that flew 280 miles and landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said.

    S. Korean President Moon Jae-in is assessing the launch.
  5. Rays blow lead, rally, blow lead, rally again to beat Twins in 15 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays sure made it interesting Sunday, taking an early lead, watching their beleaguered bullpen blow it, rallying to tie in the ninth, battling the Twins to take a lead in the 14th then giving it up again.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 28: Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates scoring a run against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on May 28, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010990