More than 4.2 million dogs, cats and other animals are anticipated to enter poverty in the next six months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new data from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
With the potential for a sustained national unemployment rate of 10 percent, the total number of animals living in poverty with their owners could rise to more than 24.4 million dogs, cats, horses and other animals, officials said in a statement, a 21 percent increase in the number of animals living in poverty compared to pre-COVID estimates (February 2020).
"The economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on families could create severe challenges and consequences for millions of pets," said Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA. "We need to help families care for and keep their animals at home when appropriate by improving access to critical medical services, pet food and supplies in communities that need them most. Because of the deep bond between pets and people, and the severe impacts of poverty on both, the future of animal welfare lies in providing these services and working collaboratively to ensure financial conditions never put pets in jeopardy or prevent pet owners from experiencing the joy and companionship that comes from having animals in their lives."
ASPCA research shows that a lack of affordable veterinary care and limited access to spay/neuter services are important potential contributors to pet relinquishment and that many of these challenges can be effectively alleviated with improved access to resources. Responding to these insights, the ASPCA has launched programs and partnerships in Los Angeles, Miami and New York to make veterinary care more accessible and affordable and improve the health and welfare of dogs and cats.
"Through its Community Veterinary Centers in Liberty City, Miami, and the South Bronx in New York City, the ASPCA provides partially and fully subsidized care to dogs and cats, including preventive services like vaccinations, treatment for infections and other minor issues, urgent care for sick animals and spay/neuter surgeries," officials said. "In addition, the ASPCA Animal Hospital in New York City offers advanced care services for pets in low-income households. With this continued work, the ASPCA strives to serve as a foundation for the development of new, more affordable medical protocols that can be shared with the veterinary community to elevate welfare efforts across the country."
Additionally, according to officials, the ASPCA works with lawmakers to expand pet-friendly housing policies by removing housing barriers for low-income and homeless pet owners. The ASPCA also recently called on policy makers to limit eviction proceedings during the pandemic to ensure that people and pets have a safe and secure place to call home as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds.
"In March, the ASPCA launched its $5 million COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Initiative to bring lifesaving services to pet owners and animals most in need and provide $2 million in grant funding to more than 50 animal welfare organizations across 30 states," officials said. "As part of its response effort, the ASPCA launched regional pet food distribution centers in several cities to provide more than 1,800 tons of emergency food for dogs, cats and horses to struggling owners. By providing access to free pet food, supplies, veterinary care, emergency boarding and information, the ASPCA is comprehensively addressing the most urgent needs of pet owners and animal shelters across the country, helping to keep animals safe and healthy."
Since launching this initiative, ASPCA officials said that they have helped more than 268,000 dogs, cats and horses across the country.