Stray animals need help too

More animals are becoming homeless due to financial burdens

He really has a great life. He doesn’t have to pay rent, everyone loves him, gets three meals a day and, oh, has four legs.

Getting my first dog as a 10-year-old was the highlight of my younger years. My dog originally lived on a farm, was the runt of the litter and had fleas and scars from the fights with his brothers and sisters. With my family of seven constantly pampering him, he literally transferred to a lap of luxury with us giving him treats, sneaking him food at the dinner table and letting him on the furniture when Mom wasn’t looking. Those were and, well, still are some of the best times spent with my dog, Wally. He’s a part of our family.

Growing up, I figured most animals were treated like this, but sadly that isn’t true. My first shock of reality was when I visited Costa Rica in 2008. There was an overwhelming number of stray cats and dogs in every street of every city we visited.

I have never experienced quite an atmosphere where animals had to fight to survive. They weren’t just given a life of luxury, like my dog. I will never forget this husky, a huge white and black mongrel of a dog with mismatched colored eyes. He was the king of the ice cream stand corner. He fought off every dog and cat and patrolled the area for dropped ice cream cones. If you happened to give your ice cream to another dog, that husky would bite and claw him till he gave up the cone. He really liked ice cream, I guess.

But bringing that situation back to the United States, thankfully we don’t see a whole lot of stray animals around here, not compared to the street corners in Costa Rica, that is. Even so the United States does have a growing issue with homeless animals and animals in shelters. More than 240,000 animals arrive in shelters each year in just the state of Michigan. Many of those animals were strays found on the street and brought into a warm shelter.

Recently, there has been an increase of animals in shelters because families cannot afford to keep their pets due to the economy. Some families will leave their pets on the side of the road because they do not know what else to do. Others will bring their pets to a shelter hoping someone else will care for their pet.

But, with more than 5,000 community animal shelters nationwide, there is not enough space for all of the homeless animals in the United States. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reported in 2011 the number of stray animals has increased in areas with the highest foreclosure rates. People cannot afford to keep their pets and people cannot afford to care for new pets. This problem leads to the depression of many animals being locked in cages. I do not know which situation is worse, being homeless or being locked in an animal shelter.

I am not trying to tell you to adopt an animal or donate to their cause. At the very least, all I can hope to do is to raise awareness. But if you are planning on adopting a newly loved pet, you have a responsibility to take care of it so it doesn’t end up abandoned on the street.