Recession affects pets as well as people

February 3, 2009 6:50:09 AM PST
People are not the only ones feeling the stress of the economic crisis. Pets are also at risk of losing homes to live in and having enough food.

In the City of Tracy, one woman and dozens of volunteers have pulled together a pet food bank to make a difference in their community.

"They're important to me. They're more important than my kids almost, you know? Or just as important," says Angela Bennett.

Bennett has a family and four cats to care for, but financially she is struggling.

"I haven't worked in like 6 months. So, it's really tight right now," she says.

It is also tight for Rick Bright, a concrete construction worker who was recently laid off. He has a family to feed, and dogs as well. While his pets have not missed any meals, he has had to sacrifice quality.

"We had him on a real good diet. He's not eating the high-end, high-protein good food, but he's still eating well," Rick says.

These are just a couple of the people grateful for the help of a pet food bank that just opened in their City of Tracy.

Cities across the nation are reeling from the recession. In San Joaquin County the unemployment rate is about 13 percent.

"Most of the people that are coming into my office have been recently laid off from the retail sales industry," explains employment training specialist Brian Williams.

Rising unemployment and the ongoing home foreclosure crisis are even hurting people's pets.

"We show up at the property and there's eviction notices on the door, and there's animals left inside or in the backyards. So, it's definitely increased the population at the animal shelter," says animal control officer Beth Palacios.

In just a few weeks time Jeannie Duckworth has come to the rescue, helping feed nearly 200 dogs and cats. She owns a grooming shop called Decadent Pets.

"Just in one week I had seven customers call me and say, 'Can you find a home for my pet? I can no longer afford to take care of them,'" she says.

To help keep animals from ending up at the shelter, or worse, Duckworth created the Lucky Paws Foundation. Through this nonprofit she has been collecting donations for a pet food bank.

"As times get tough for people, they get harder for animals," says Tracy's Art Commissioner Anne Marie Fuller, who donated cat litter and dog food.

Realtor Bill Barringer donated a dog to the cause and explains his motivation as "Just good cause?What can I say?"

"I think that something like this, is really filling a void that nobody really has considered," says Dr. Andrew Trosien, an orthodontist who recently donated $500.

With the help of dozens of volunteers, free pet food is handed out at Duckworth's store once a week, to anyone facing hard economic times. It is a community effort they hope catches on in other cities.

Duckworth says she plans to keep it up until the food runs out.