Having a pet is expensive, and when people lose their jobs, pets are often one of the first things to go. The Canadian Association of Oil Producers reported losing 35,000 jobs in August, and since then the SPCA has reported high numbers of new pets at its Fort McMurray shelter, surrendered by their owners.
Executive director Tara Clarke tells CBC that the shelter has seen over 50 pets left by their owners:
"They're all directly connected to the downturn," said Clarke. "From people losing their homes to losing their jobs to having to take on additional work, meaning that they don't have time to provide care for their pets."
She says these pets have "heartbreaking" stories. "It's very, very sad to see."
Clarke says the shelter has had to operate at full capacity, and not too long ago it had 30 pet owners with animals on wait-lists for the shelter.
She's been making efforts to help people keep pets in their homes. She says the SPCA has expanded the shelter's Pet Food Bank program. It's also providing vet services at the shelter to give low-income pet owners subsidized care.
"We're working to meet the needs of all pet owners despite economic backgrounds or their circumstances. We're working to keep those animals in their homes," Clarke said.
The price of crude oil has been tanking globally, and Canadians should brace for more job losses in the tar pits. “Canadians should be concerned in times like these,” Tim McMillan, president and chief executive of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, tells Financial Post.
When you don't have a job, paying for your pet's care, which often can include vet bills for unforeseen health problems, can be next to impossible. For example, if you own a 40-pound dog for 13 years, you can rack up costs of over $28,700, according the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association.
Clarke says that fortunately Albertans have responded to the increased number of pets surrendered at shelters by adopting many of the pets and giving them new homes.
"Despite the increase in surrenders, we've also seen an increase in adoptions, and that's really great to see and really a testament to this community," said Clarke.
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