By Angela J. Willard (Richards)
for Paradise Pets Magazine, Key West, FL
The Florida Keys pet shelters are overwhelmed with the many homeless pets they care for on a daily basis, more than 300 are housed at the Florida Keys SPCA (FKSPCA) shelters in Key West and Marathon combined.
Nationwide, approximately 5 million pets are homeless and housed in about 5000 animal shelters in the scope of a year. Here in the Keys the FKSPCA houses more than 3000 of those homeless pets annually, according to Tammy Fox, Executive Director of the FKSPCA. Nationally, of those 5 million homeless pets, 3.5 million are euthanized at shelters. Fortunately, our FKSPCA shelters are no-kill shelters. Some of the pets they care for have been there for years.
In the United States, out of the 322,050,000 population, only 70 million homes have a pet. While about 1,750,000 in the US go without a home, making it difficult to own a pet. Furthermore, many people live in homes that do not allow pets.
According to Fox, moving seems to be the primary cause of pet homelessness in Key West. The housing market makes it difficult to find affordable pet-friendly housing, and when some have to move they are forced to surrender their beloved pets if they are not able to rehome them on their own.
Some people, when forced into a difficult housing dilemma choose homelessness over giving up their beloved pet.
According to Pets of the Homeless, “To break the homeless cycle requires the owner to move into a shelter. Most shelters do not allow pets unless they are a service animal.” According to their website, “Pets provide a deep comfort. Pets are non-judgmental. They are loyal. They provide warmth and security. The homeless get a type of normalcy by providing food and water for their pets. In some cases, they provide them with reality. Some homeless would sacrifice their own food for their pets. Then there is the protection factor. Living on the streets is dangerous especially for women and the disabled. For many on the streets these animals provide them with security from other homeless or from those that discriminate against the homeless with beatings or from others who may steal their modest possessions.”
What is needed is more affordable, pet-friendly housing, not just nationwide, but here in the Keys as well. Another option could be providing the ability to relocate to areas where there are more affordable housing opportunities, bringing family pets in tow. Not all can afford to relocate. But who wants to leave the beautiful Florida Keys? Very few, once here, envision ever leaving. And when they do, they often return.
For those who reside in the Keys, please consider adopting a pet from one of the local shelters. There are many loving pets who need loving homes. If you are a landlord, please consider allowing responsible pet owners to rent from you. If you already own a pet, please be sure to have your pet spayed/neutered to prevent unwanted litters. Oftentimes, pets have children that are unwanted by their human pet parents, and those unwanted puppies and kitties end up in the local shelters, homeless.
Sources: National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, American Humane Society, Born Free U.S.A., Pet Finder, Pets of the Homeless, FKSPCA
This article was originally published in the April-June 2016 issue of Paradise Pets Magazine, Key West, FL
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