LOS ANGELES, CA – The issues of pet abandonment and shelter overrun have now surpassed the critical stage as an alarming number of pet owners are still being forced to give up their animals due to the recession. Although some specialty pet stores and pet-product manufacturers claim to be immunized against these unyielding economic times, animal welfare groups report that our pet overpopulation, particularly in temporary shelters, has reached a state of instability, if not danger.
Animal welfare experts say since the pet population in shelters was already brimming, a percentage rate in the double digits has caused a habitation overflow that has become grim.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, animal control agencies are already processing well over 500,000 homeless pets each year. Only 25 percent of these animals are adopted or placed into a safe environment. The lives of the majority, including those with a registered pedigree, are euthanized.
Although economists feel that the recession is nearing an end, its recovery will be stutter-stepping well into the second quarter of 2010 as it heals from a severe downturn. But some programs, like California’s state-funded animal shelters, are not curative. Due to fierce budget-cutting, shelter animals are only allowed to sit on death row for three days, down from six. Animal depositories say 72 hours is not enough time for them to hunt down the owner of a lost or runaway pet with no identification.
Animal groups across the state are now pressing lawmakers to enact temporary incentives aimed at providing owners constructive reasons to keep their pets during the recession. Proposals currently being written include implementing state-funded adoption, identification and spay/neutering campaigns until the job market picks up. Other animal welfare advocates say soft-style solutions fall short.
Actor/animal welfare activist Leo Grillo’s resolution has long-range capabilities with a definitive focal point. And it is already on the floor of Congress. His concept is called H.R. 3501, or the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (HAPPY) Act.
Grillo is founder and president of D.E.L.T.A. Rescue, the largest care-for-life animal sanctuary in the world.’s bill allows consumers to deduct as much as $3,500 of pet-related expenses from their tax returns. It was introduced by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) back in July. Since then, the initiative has attracted the appeal of millions of American voters and taxpayers because it addresses the crucial needs of both animals and humans.
In addition to the American Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals, Grillo’s initiative is backed by the Humane Society of the United States. With well over 11 million members, or one in every 28 Americans, HSUS stands as the largest animal advocacy organization in the world.
“Sometimes it takes the right moment for a bill to get attention,” said HSUS executive vice president and chief operating officer Michael Markarian. “And a tax break for pet care is a policy that could directly benefit two-thirds of American households that have companion animals. We are thrilled that Leo Grillo and Rep. McCotter are advocating for this policy reform.”
Grillo and his D.E.L.T.A. Rescue staff currently care for more than 1,500 cats and dogs previously abandoned in the wilderness. He sees firsthand how critical a problem animal abandonment has become in the wake of the recession and its slothful turnabout.
“The state of affairs for animals has been degraded from sad to tragic,” said Grillo, who rescues pets left to die of starvation, injury, exposure and disease. “Out of ignorant desperation, people have become even more ruthless by dumping their pets unlawfully and making their aging and sick pets fend for themselves in the harshest environment you can imagine. How would you like a family member do that to you if you were suffering from an illness or weakened by old age?”
It is what he experiences on a daily basis is one of the dominant reasons his pet tax-exempt initiative is a bi-partisan one. “Animals, like children, are entrusted to all of us, not just some of us,” he said. “We already have Thaddeus McCotter on our side. Now we need Democrats to also support the bill. It’s not, by any means, a partisan issue.”
“And by encouraging affordable pet care, the bill not only promotes animal health and well-being, but also could help to stimulate the economy by driving more business to veterinarians, animal hospitals, and pet care providers, added Markarian. “[This bill] recognizes that pets are part of the family, too.”
Animal welfare advocates agree that the pet abandonment crisis in America can be curbed cost-effectively by providing consumers “more discretionary income for pets,” said Grillo. “We need to relieve the pressure now.
D.E.L.T.A. Rescue, the HSUS and the ASPCA represent the largest and most powerful coalition of animal welfare advocates to stand up for the urgent needs of animals in the history of American legislation.