Tom Purcell: Dogs and cats also facing tough times

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 4, 2023

There’s a lot of sad news to go around, but this Vox story really breaks my heart: animal shelters are overflowing with abandoned dogs and cats again.

A few years ago, during COVID isolation, there was a surge of people rescuing pets from shelters to fill their homes with lovable furry creatures.

It was the heyday of abandoned animals finding homes, with more animals leaving shelters than coming in.

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As people went back to work, however, some people decided they didn’t have the time or desire to care for a pet and sent it back to the shelter — something they should have thought through before they disrupted the pet’s life.

But there is another force that is driving people to abandon their pets: it has got way too expensive to feed and care for them.

High inflation drove up the cost of pet food 20 percent year over year — for the simple reason that the ingredients to make pet food were also at record highs, as everything has been the past three years.

The inflation rate is down some in 2023, but the cost of services is not. That includes the cost of having a pet get regular checkups and care at the veterinarian, as well as the proper shots pets need annually.

CNN reports that a high percentage of the abandoned pets have serious medical issues, which can be very costly to treat.

My 2½ year old Labrador, Thurber, is healthy and fit as can be — but when he began having seizures, we discovered he suffers from epilepsy.

That required trips to more than one veterinarian, including a skilled neurologist who specializes in pets, and also some costly lab work.

Fortunately, I have a pet-insurance policy that made the roughly $800 vet bill bearable. Thurber got excellent care and the medication is working perfectly.

However, if I were struggling to feed my children and pay my mortgage and car payment, as many middle-class people are, would I have given my dog to a shelter to hopefully get it the care I could not afford?

The answer is no, never, for me — I’d take a second job or sell my truck first. I’m not kidding when I say if reincarnation was real, my dream would be to come back as my own dog!

But I feel sorry for people who are really struggling to pay their bills right now and the painful decisions they are being forced to make.

I wonder: Are we heading back to the pre-WWII era, when the only people who could enjoy pets were the well-to-do?

Today’s pet-abandonment trend illustrates well what happens in the daily lives of everyday Americans because of the reckless government policies and spending that the Wall Street Journal reports have made the cost of everything, including our ability to care for our pets, unbearable.

But if you have the means and the commitment and love in your heart, remember that wonderful pets are waiting in shelters for you to bring them home — and if you cannot adopt, your donations are always welcome.

If you are in financial straits and your pet needs basic supplies or even costly medical care, the Humane Society and other organizations may be able to offer financial assistance to help you keep your beloved pet in your home.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my pup is dropping his ball at my feet. It’s time to go outside for some exercise!

Copyright 2023 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Purcell, creator of the infotainment site, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at