Quad-Citians giving up pets because they can't afford them
Kelly Cheesman takes part in a “meet and greet” with a dog at the Rock Island County Animal Care and Control Shelter. With her is her own dog Jimi, a black lab she adopted two years ago, and Randy Heiar, the dog supervisor at the shelter. The “meet and greet” is designed to see if your dog will get along with a dog to be adopted. Jimi approved of the new dog and Kelly adopted her and named her “Gracie.” (Larry Fisher/QUAD-CITY TIMES)

Jessica Hurd spent her Wednesday afternoon taking her two beagles to the low cost clinic run by the Quad-City Animal Welfare Center.

Last year, she had Willie, 2, neutered for around $45. Her regular veterinarian would have charged $250.

“You don’t want to compromise on care, but they do the same thing here for half the price,” Hurd said.

The Quad-City Animal Welfare Center and the Rock Island County Animal Care and Control Shelter are offering low cost services as an increasing number of Quad-Citians are surrendering their pets because they cannot afford to care for them.

“It’s really sad when they can’t take care of them and they release them to us,” said Patti Lahn, executive director of the Quad-City Animal Welfare Center. “We go through a lot of tissue here sometimes.”

In June six families released their pets to Rock Island, two because they had been evicted and were living in their car with their animals.

 “It’s unfortunate to see it. It’s very sad to see it; it’s just reality,” said Richard Glessner, director of Rock Island County Animal Care and Control.

The number of owners giving up their animals because of financial reasons has been steadily rising in Rock Island County. In 2006, 24 pets were surrendered. That number doubled to 52 in 2007 and already this year 37 pets have been surrendered.

The Humane Society of Scott County has not seen an increase in owners surrendering pets because they can no longer afford them. But Pamela Arndt, executive director of the Humane Society, said she’s expecting Scott County will see an increase at some point in the future.

“I think it’s a shame that people feel they have to give up their pets because of the economy,” Hurd said.

Hurd started taking her beagles to the low cost clinic about a year ago. The mother of three works part time at the YMCA so she can be at home with her kids and her husband works as a CPA and keeps the family on a strict budget.

At Wednesday’s visit both dogs were tested for heartworm, given bordetella vaccinations, got their nails clipped and received a three-month supply of flea and heartworm preventative for $176. In comparison, the three months worth of preventative would have cost $150 at her regular veterinarian.

‘A nationwide problem’

Pets nationwide are becoming victims of a sluggish economy, said Nancy Peterson, issues specialist for the Humane Society of the United States, who has been following the issue for the past year.

“It’s evident to us that yes, this is a nationwide problem, whether it’s foreclosure or just can’t afford, money is tight, pets are suffering from the financial crisis as well,” Peterson said.

Peterson urges pet owners not to abandon their pets thinking that they can fend for themselves.

To try to help keep pets with their owners Rock Island County Animal Care and Control secured a grant to offer free spay and neuter surgeries to low income residents and has begun offering food for those who can’t afford to feed their animals.

“Our whole objective is to try to keep that animal in the home rather than force people to give it up,” Glessner said.

Another sign pets are suffering from the economy is the number of animals being surrendered to Rock Island County because families are moving. That number has increased from four pets in June 2006 to 11 in June 2008.

“Just from my personal experience … it’s due to a move down rather than a move up,” Glessner said.

At capacity

When the Rock Island County Animal Care and Control Shelter was built to house 90 dogs and 200 cats, it was supposed to be large enough never to reach capacity. But the shelter took in a record 490 animals in June, some of which were from other animal shelters affected by flooding, and nearly 100 animals in just three days last week.

Because of the influx, Glessner said the shelter has been fluctuating between three or four open dog runs and very little space for cats for the last 45 days, a situation Glessner is not comfortable with. They have not had to euthanize healthy animals for space, but according to Glessner they have had to euthanize sick or injured animals that could have been rehabilitated and placed for adoption once they were returned to good health.

To try to free up space, the Rock Island County Animal Care and Control is holding an adoption event Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For the even adoption fees have been reduced to $25 for cats and $50 for dogs. The price includes spay or neuter surgeries, vaccinations and microchipping.

“Our main objective Saturday is to get as many animals out of here as possible so we can get our numbers back down,” Glessner said.

Stephanie De Pasquale can be contacted at (563) 333-2639 or sdepasquale@qctimes.com.

Comment on this story at qctimes.com.

If you go

What: Adoption event

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 19

Where: Rock Island County Animal Care and Control, 4001 78th Ave., Moline, near the airport

How much: $25 for cats, $50 for dogs

Information: (309) 558-3647

On the Web: qcpaws.org

Other adoption events

Diva’s Doggy Wear is hosting a pool and s’paw party to promote pet adoption and benefit the Scott County Humane Society. The event is from noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, July 19, at Diva’s Doggy Wear, 4811 N. Brady St., Suite 1C, Davenport.

By the numbers

One year worth of routine pet products and veterinarian expenses will cost $2,101 for a dog and $1,320 for a cat.

— Humane Society of the United States