The Economy's Helpless Victim: The Family Pet

In better economic times, the recreational vehicle industry put Elkhart, Indiana, on the map. Now, with almost no demand for RVs, the mainstream media has dubbed Elkhart "unemployment ground zero." But what the MSM has failed to acknowledge is this sad fact of recession life: in any disaster area where people are having a hard time -- and right now, that's everywhere in America -- pets are having it just as hard, or harder.

For many jobless Americans, a pet offers the invaluable comfort of non-judgmental love and moral support. But with household resources dwindling, many are obliged to sacrifice that support system and entrust animal companions to the kindness of strangers. Sadly, Elkhart's animal shelter -- like so many across the country -- is reporting a huge spike in abandoned pets. In September, 740 animals were admitted to the Humane Society of Elkhart County, whether owner-surrendered in person or left astray outdoors. That's more than twice the number admitted in January.

"People can't feed themselves or their kids, and often pets are the first to go," says Stephanie Krol, who was moved to begin volunteering at the Elkhart shelter after adopting her beloved mutt Simon there. Krol spends so much time helping out at the shelter that she's often mistaken for an employee. She recalls the sad day a teenage girl arrived in tears, charged with the terrible task of surrendering her family's beautiful, healthy, young Husky:

"We see heartbreaking decisions like that every day in the Humane Society lobby," Krol says.

But those animals are the luckier ones; many people simply leave unwanted dogs and cats by the roadside under cover of darkness. This was happening so frequently that Elkhart Humane came up with a solution to prevent leaving animals vulnerable to traffic and the elements: "Animal night deposit" drop boxes, sturdy metal depositories to hold pets while the shelter is closed. Food, water, and blankets are provided in the boxes, which lock automatically for the pets' safety and are opened early the next morning by shelter staff.

"One family dropped all their animals off one night -- there were two dogs and a cat huddled together in one box," Krol says. The drop boxes have raised controversy among animal lovers. But the reality is that for some animals, the drop box provides the kindest, most comfortable accommodations they've ever known -- and with a square meal to boot.