ATLANTA — Of all the animals peering sadly through the cage bars of shelters across the country, 25 percent of them once had an owner who gave them up for one reason or another, according to national statistics.
Those who did because they could no longer afford a pet have been getting some help over the past decade from a program operated by The Humane Society United States that provides food, medical care and other support.
Launched in 2010, the Pets for Life program now operates in at least 27 cities and towns, including Atlanta, where it began in 2012. The program provides free or low-cost veterinarian services, supplies and food. It also has provided about 100,000 free surgeries to spay and neuter animals. Animal welfare organizations advocate spaying and neutering to reduce pet overpopulation.
Pets for Life is helping animal owners “by allowing them to keep the pets in their homes even if they’re going through a hard time, and it’s keeping the pets out of the shelters,” said Lizzy Trawick, a program outreach coordinator in Atlanta.
The Shelters Animal Count national database shows that about one-fourth the U.S. shelter population consists of animals that were formerly owned and later given up, for a variety of reasons: financial struggles, lease problems in housing units, animal behavioral problems or a loss of interest in owning a pet. Strays make up most of the shelters’ populations.