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Pets fall victim during tough economic times

Local organizations talk about abandoned pets and what the community can do to help.

/Jon Dunn

Underwriting support from:

/Jon Dunn

It's an all too common story. A family, financially stretched, looks at a stack of late notices and eviction warnings. Needing to cut costs, the pet often is the first to go. 

Meet our unnamed kitty above.

This kitty was trapped in a (locked) foreclosed home for almost two weeks and repeated calls to different "official" agencies from a concerned neighbor went nowhere. As a volunteer for Carol's Ferals, I set off with food, traps and a fair amount of hope that the three cats were still alive.

We managed to safely rescue two, the third wasn't so lucky, as she had already succombed to starvation before we could get inside the home.

Count these two lucky survivors amongst the dozens of animals in the Grand Rapids area who face similar circumstances daily.

Pat Coffin, co-owner of Urban Pharm, a local property management company can add "animal rescuer" to his resume. He says he sees the situation above far too often.

"It's a daily occurrance that I see animals I could take," says Coffin. "Animals are often offered to us as the owners can't afford the costs of basic care. It definitely happens more than I would like to see."

In the four years that Urban Pharm has been in operation, Coffin estimates that they personally have rescued around two dozen animals, but have come in contact with many more.

"When we have to evict a tenant, they often leave their animals behind."

Luckily, the animals have people like Pat on their side. He says once a month an animal they come across will end up in their office in need of a home. Because of their great network of homeowners and renters, posting the pets in need of a home to their Facebook page always ends successfully. 

So What Can You Do?

Amy Singer, Marketing and Communications Manager for the Kent County Department of Health and Animal Control says call them first.

"We don't want people taking matters into their own hands. We're here to protect the public," explains Singer. "Animals in these types of situations often are scared, hungry and could be dangerous."

She says first things first. Call them at 616-632-7300.

Ultimately, Pat Coffin says if you want to help and can afford to do it, then be a part of the solution.

"If someone has the means, please take the animal. Take them to the vet, get them checked out and try to do whatever you can to find that animal a home. I'm proud to say in four years, we've never had to take an animal to the Humane Society." 

If you find yourself with an animal in need of a home, local cat rescue organization, Carol's Ferals, has this guide on rehoming cats.

If you know of someone in the community faced with a tough choice when it comes to their pets, the Humane Society of West Michigan has two programs that could help. Kibble Konnection, a pet food bank, and the Pet Care Assistance program help low-income families in the community.

Author's Note: We'd really like help with names for these kitties! Leave us a comment and let us know what you think they should be called! Also, they will be looking for homes soon, once they regain their strength. Get in touch with Carol's Ferals to find out about these kittens and the dozens of others ready for your couch!

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Not only was this interesting to consider as homes are foreclosed on, the face of the kitty is amazing. Love it!

Thanks Roberta, appreciate it!

It's really sad, actually, that often families look at pets in such a manner. Hard times, I understand, but to look at their pets as expendable hurts my heart. We have to do more to intervene, not only in a financial sense as food banks do, but also help them see pets as *part* of the family. 

It is heartening to know when pets do get left behind, there are many in the community, and communities across the country, willing to pick up the pieces.