May 6, 2024

20 Million Pets in the US Experience Poverty with Their Families

Approximately 20 million pets in the US experience poverty with their families and 70 percent have never seen a veterinarian. According to a new Harris Poll survey conducted on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States, only around one in four Americans (28 percent) are even aware of this national crisis. In fact, 43 percent of all pet owners have been unable to pay for their pets’ needs at some point due to financial reasons.

The poll shows that most Americans (89 percent) agree that all pet owners deserve to keep their pets as long as they care for them and love them and no one should have to give up their pet if they fall on financial hard times (81 percent). Three-quarters of Americans (75 percent) believe that overcrowded shelters need more people to adopt pets, regardless of their socio-economic status.

Pets are a part of the family and 91 percent of pet owners say they are willing to make personal sacrifices for them, ranging from giving up daily luxuries (71 percent) like a planned vacation to a daily cup of fancy coffee. Many (64 percent) would tap into their own money, including savings, taking out a loan or going into debt. Nearly half (46 percent) would adjust their living/career, including get a new job in order to work from home, move homes or break up with a significant other to care for their pet.

Furthermore, 9 in 10 Americans (90 percent) say that it is important to have support―similar to those for adults impacted by poverty and inequality like shelters and community organizations―available for pets in need.

The Humane Society of the United States’ More Than a Pet campaign addresses this nationwide crisis head on by elevating awareness and providing solutions for those facing economic hardship and struggling to access care for their pets. With the help of campaign partners TQL, Motel 6, Smalls and Tractive, along with the campaign’s celebrity ambassador Jackson Galaxy—renowned cat behavior and wellness expert, author and television host—More Than a Pet focuses on advancing equity and access to care to keep families and their pets together, happy and healthy.

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “The human-animal bond transcends demographics and everyone should have the opportunity to experience the joy of animal companionship. Millions of loving pet owners cannot afford or don’t have access to veterinary services or pet resources. Most people are aware of how poverty and structural inequality create challenges and barriers to accessing healthy food, education, jobs, healthcare and housing for people. Pet resources are no different.”

Galaxy added, “There is no greater joy than the unconditional love and relationship we have with our animal family members. They are more than just pets; they’re part of our lives and our hearts and no one should ever have to even think about giving them up because they don’t have access to pet food, supplies and essential resources. We need to do all we can to keep these families together. People can make a difference by helping a neighbor out, whether that be giving them a bag of cat food, offering to care for their cat if they have fallen on hard times or driving them to veterinary appointments if they don’t have a car. Every bit helps and means more than you know.”

An important component of the campaign is the More Than a Pet Community Hero Award, recognizing the contributions of three community heroes who are making a difference by working to ensure the well-being of people and their pets in communities lacking access to resources like pet food and veterinary care. The public is encouraged to show their support by voting for the hero whose story impacts them most.

People can also make a big difference by simply spreading the word about this enormous crisis and by helping their neighbors. Every act of kindness goes a long way:

  • Offer to pet sit
  • Drive them to a veterinary appointment
  • Collect pet essential donations for them
  • Buy an extra bag of cat or dog food
  • Foster someone’s pet if they fall on hard times

Since 2002, the Humane Society of the United States has served more than 500,000 pets and their families living in poverty with veterinary services such as spay/neuter and vaccinations at no cost to the pet’s family. The HSUS has also donated more than $40 million worth of pet supplies, including 14 million pounds of pet food.


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