Everything is so interconnected, an environmental tragedy of the magnitude of the Gulf Coast’s coupled with our continued economic recession is hitting hard even our nonaquatic friends. Do all you can to help people continue to keep and feed their pets. On my website’s Buy the Book page is a link to The Animal Rescue site, a free site from which pet food is donated with every click. Bookmark the page and click on the link every day to keep the food supply steady. And keep all the families and animals affected by the Gulf Coast disaster in your thoughts and prayers. Everything helps. —Sid

The oil spill’s forgotten victims—Gulf Coast pets

July 11, 10:46 AMFt. Myers Gulf Oil Spill ExaminerTereza Marks

Pets, forgotten victims of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Pets, forgotten victims of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Tereza Marks

When the economy began to turn sour a few years ago, humane societies and animal shelters across the country started to see an increase in pets being abandoned or relinquished because owners could no longer afford to care for them.  Unfortunately, many familes were faced with difficult choices– food for themselves and their families or food for their beloved pets. In the Gulf region, economic hardships continue to mount for families who depend on fishing or tourism– increasing the urgent need for assistance to help the area’s pets.

Stories about owners having to surrender beloved pets at shelters have become all too common over the last few years– not just in the Gulf region but around the country.   As an example, a man, living in his car after losing his home, showed up at up at an animal shelter in Virginia with two purebred Welshi Corgi’s.  He could no longer afford to even feed his loving companions that he had for over 5 years.   Unfortunately, in the Gulf region these scenes could continue to be played out due to the long term economic effects of the oil spill.

Over the last few years, as food pantries stocked shelves to help feed the newly homeless and unemployed, animal welfare organizations created pet food pantries to help these pets stay with their families until their caretakers were able to recover from economic hardships.   In the Gulf region, these donations of pet food may be all that allows pets to stay in homes, especially as the decline in  tourism and lack of  fishing continue to affect all aspects of the local economies.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, based in Kanab, UT, recently delivered 20 tons of donated dog food to Gulf Coast Region.  Best Friends, according to a recent article on their website, is teaming up the with Louisana SPCA to set up four regular food distribution sites, in St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Orleans and Jefferson parishes.  According to Beth Brewster, director of the St. Bernard Parish Animal Shelter, her shelter has recently taken in many more pets than this time last year and fishing families with large dogs are most in need. These families do not want to give up their pets but lack of income due to the oil spills is forcing them to do so.  Donation programs such as this can help keep these pets in their loving homes.

The Louisiana SPCA has also started a Gulf Coast Companion Animal Relief Program to help those affected by the oil spill.  The program provides services such as spay/neuter surgery, microchipping, annual vaccinations, and a three month supply of food.  The goal of the program is to help 1,000 companion animals in Plaquemines Parish, St. Bernard Parish, lower Jefferson Parish (Grand Isle and Lafitte) and Terrebonne Parish.

As the oil spill continues to affect tourism and the fishing industry throughout the Gulf region, demand for pet assistance programs will likely increase.  Residents throughout the region, including those in Southwest Florida, may see more owners no longer able to afford to keep their pets.  You can help by donating to programs, such as those at Best Friends and the Louisana SPCA, and by contacting your local humane society, animal shelter, or food pantry to see if there is a  program to provide food or veterinary assistance to low income pet owners.

Also, if you are in the position to add a new four-legged member to your family, please adopt from a shelter or rescue group.  Sites, such as Petfinder, allow you to search both locally and nationally for pets looking for homes.