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Pets are being given up by people who can't afford to keep them

ROB SCHMITZ, HOST:

Remember how everyone seemed to be getting pets earlier in the pandemic? Well, now some people are having to give theirs up because they can't afford to keep them. NPR's Carmen Molina Acosta has this report.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOGS BARKING)

CARMEN MOLINA ACOSTA, BYLINE: Sarah Barnett runs an animal shelter in Philadelphia. Recently, she's seen hard economic times put pet owners in a tough spot.

SARAH BARNETT: Right now, when people are losing their jobs and having to pick between putting food on the table or feeding their family and their pet, they're having to make a very difficult decision and really being left with very few options.

MOLINA ACOSTA: They're not all impulse pandemic puppies either.

BARNETT: We're seeing a lot of people in Philadelphia coming to us who do love their pet, they wish they could keep them, but they can't because they're moving in with their family members 'cause they can't find another place to live, you know, or their family members' allergic who they moved in with - things like that.

MOLINA ACOSTA: About 1 in 5 households nationwide took in a pet during the first 14 months of the pandemic, according to a survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Since then, the cost of pet food, vet visits and just about everything else has gone up. Barnett's shelter picks up strays, and lately, more than half of them come from Philadelphia's lowest-income neighborhoods.

BARNETT: It's really heartbreaking because it's easy to want to judge everybody who surrenders an animal, and everyone always says, you know, they would never surrender an animal, but these people are reaching their breaking point. You know, they're trying everything they can. And a lot of people are giving them up because they literally are living out of their car, and they want a better life for the dog.

MOLINA ACOSTA: Animal shelters around the country are overflowing, and there's a price to that overcrowding.

BARNETT: We've euthanized dogs who are healthy and adoptable and treatable for space.

MOLINA ACOSTA: But Barnett says there are pet pantries and other resources out there to help keep owners and pets together. And hopefully more animals can be saved.

BARNETT: You know, every number is a wet nose and a wagging tail, so to speak. But most of the animals are leaving our shelter and going back to their owners or going to rescue organizations or finding homes directly through us.

MOLINA ACOSTA: Carmen Molina Acosta, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carmen Molina Acosta