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.

In an effort to help people feed their feline companions, the ASPCA offers its new Cat Assistance Program, launched last Thursday at its New York City shelter. This operates like a pet food and litter bank for cat owners in need, distributing “Cat Assistance Kits” containing a litter pan, scoop, cat toys, and free-product coupons amounting to 140,000 pounds of Fresh Step litter and 31,500 pounds of 9Lives cat food (limit one kit per household, while supplies last). The program comes this month to the following organizations: Humane Society of Tampa Bay, Town Lake Animal Center in Austin, Charleston Animal Society, Spokanimal C.A.R.E., Nashville Humane Association, East Bay SPCA-Oakland, Sacramento SPCA, PAWS Chicago, and Pike’s Peak Pet Pantry.

Animal advocates contend that things might be very different for our fellow Americans on four feet had President Obama made good on his campaign promise to adopt a humble homeless dog instead of accepting the late Senator Kennedy’s gift of a pricey purebred puppy. Our country’s animal shelters currently must euthanize some 8 million healthy, adoptable pets each year. But the shelters might have had a chance of emptying out if the millions of Americans so impressed with the campaign-era Obama could have followed his lead on pet adoption. Mixed-breed mutts would have gotten their due as the all-American pet — one dog out of many, e pluribus unum. Instead, with the appointment of Bo Obama as First Dog, the nation’s copycat dog lovers — encouraged by the MSM’s cute reports about Bo’s antics — became besotted with the Portuguese water dog. And shelter pets, so ready for their turn in the national spotlight, were overlooked yet again.


Like many thousands of animal shelters from coast to coast, Elkhart Humane’s already-limited resources are now stretched to the breaking point. Thankfully, this shelter is rich in hope, with a 100-strong group of dedicated volunteers. Area businesses are also reaching out to offer assistance. The local Fox station showcases adoptable pets each week, and Wellpet — Indiana-based makers of Wellness, Holistic Select, Old Mother Hubbard, and Eagle Pack brand foods — recently donated 300 cases of treats.

For consistency, the shelter prays that a pet food sponsor can be persuaded to donate one type of food for the dogs and one for the cats. “We’ve been feeding the animals whatever we can get our hands on,” Krol explains. “And switching foods so often upsets their stomachs.” That, of course, means more cleanup — and the shelter is short on cleaning supplies.

So Elkhart is sending out an SOS (Save Our Shelter). Donations of food, bleach, latex gloves, or money, no matter how small the amount, may be sent to:

Humane Society of Elkhart County, 54687 County Road 19, Bristol, IN 46507.

Those items also top the wish lists of shelters across the country, which could use your help. So consider reaching out to the nearest animal shelter in your home state. Offer whatever you can, whether it’s the small gesture of donating old towels, sheets, and blankets, or the very significant one of volunteering to foster a dog or cat to free up cage space. America’s homeless animals appreciate your compassion.



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