Help available for pet owners in hard times

Difficult economic times have left some financially strapped pet owners and horse owners turning to
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Difficult economic times have left some financially strapped pet owners and horse owners turning to animal protective organizations to take their beloved animals.

But officials at the Animal Protective Foundation, a humane society for Schenectady County and the greater Capital Region, say they have programs for the hard times.

“We saw the handwriting on the wall,” said Marguerite Pearson, a spokeswoman for the Animal Protective Foundation.

People losing their homes to foreclosure often feel they have to give up their pets because rental properties won’t allow them.

The Animal Protective Foundation at 53 Maple Ave. in Scotia has a list of 300 pet-friendly rental properties in the Capital Region. These landlords allow pets in their rental units. The Pet Friendly Rental List is available on the foundation’s Web site, www.animalprotective.org, or by calling the foundation at 374-3944.

Other foundation programs include a reduced-price spay and neuter program, rabies vaccinations and other veterinary care for just $70 per cat. Pearson said this program currently provides more than 60 surgeries per week. Some veterinarians charge between $200 and $300 for such services, Pearson said.

For Schenectady County residents, the foundation has a partnership with the Schenectady Inner City Ministry’s Food Pantry at 839 Albany St. More than 4,000 pounds of pet food is donated each month to the foundation to meet an increased demand for pet food by needy county residents.

Pearson said the foundation’s shelter has about 70 dogs and cats ready for adoption.

“We haven’t seen great spikes in the numbers, but we are holding our breath,” Pearson said. She said if the economy continues to decline the foundation may start to see more pets being dropped off.

“People will come in and say ‘I lost my job,’ ” she said. “ ‘I can’t afford to care for my dog anymore.’ ”

“It’s a stressful time. … But a pet is a great source of comfort,” Pearson said.

Horse protective organizations are also feeling the hard economic times.

Nina Bellinger, founder and director of Easy Street Horse Rescue in the Montgomery County town of Florida, said her three-year-old organization depends on donations.

She said donations have “pretty much dried up” in recent months because of the economy. She is currently organizing fundraisers.

The stables at Easy Street (www.easystreetrescue.org) currently have 10 horses, five of which were rescued.

Two of the rescued horses came from a humane society seizure of horses last summer at a stable in Rensselaer County.

“Right before winter we get lots of calls,” Bellinger said.

“We get one or two calls per day from people wanting to get rid of a horse,” she said. “They say they just can’t afford it.”

In one case, a person struggling with economic problems was also going through a divorce and had to give up the horse.

Another was from a horse farm in Saratoga County. The owner traded one of his horses for hay because he was running out of money.

“With horses, it’s not so easy,” Bellinger said. “You have to have facilities.”

She said having a horse takes care and manpower. Bellinger said it costs her about $5 per day to feed each of her horses. Veterinarian services for a horse can also be very expensive.

“It adds up,” she said.

Bellinger said Easy Street Horse Rescue recently got help from an unexpected source.

The kindergarten class at the Glendaal Elementary School in Scotia created a Pennies for Ponies community project.

The kindergarten classes visited the Easy Street stables last fall to see the horses. Later, teachers and students decided to bring in change to help the organization.

Sometimes, those working in the animal protective and rescue organizations need help as well, said Pearson of the Animal Protective Foundation. Staffers at animal protective organizations face “life and death decisions” every day regarding the animals in their care, she said.

The foundation coordinated a “compassion fatigue” workshop last week conducted by Carol Brothers, a psychologist specializing in counseling those with grief and trauma issues. The workshop was supported in part by the Hill Science Diet pet food company.

Staff members from the foundation and five other animal welfare organizations attended the sessions.

It can be a very stressful occupation, Pearson said. She said Brothers provided the roughly 30 people attending the workshops with ways to cope with feelings of stress, anger, sadness and burnout, and bring hope and peace into their lives.

Categories: Schenectady County

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