Editorial: Economy, housing are pet problems, too

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In Traverse City, adoring our pets is part of our vibe.

We create dog parks for frolics, create breed-specific meet-up groups, and are happy to see dogs warming feet at local breweries, cats and pigs on leashes at the Open Space and backyard chickens flocking to most neighborhoods.

Pets are so enmeshed into our lives that it shouldn’t surprise us that issues impacting us locally also affect them.

But the news last week that the housing crisis is driving more pets into local shelters brought us to heel.

Of course it makes sense. How many times have you endured the difficulty of renting an apartment with pets, or heard about it from a friend or family member? Perhaps it was a prospective employee who couldn’t find housing — not because it was unaffordable, but because of their pets.

Worse, people caught in this crunch are surrendering their pets to animal shelters at an alarming rate, contributing to what The Associated Press calls “kennel crunch.”

A recent story cites national database Shelter Animals Count, which estimates that the U.S. shelter population grew by nearly 750,000 animals in 2023. And adoptions just aren’t keeping up.

Locally, for example, Cherryland Humane Society had 630 intakes last year, compared to 398 adoptions.

While there is some evidence of “pandemic puppy” problems as people return to offices, experts say the same issues that are squeezing people are squeezing pets by association.

“The economy right now is really challenging for a lot of families,” Kim Alboum of the Bissell Pet Foundation told AP. “And with the housing crisis, people are losing their homes and are having to downsize or move in with others.”

This shouldn’t surprise us. Our issues become our pets’ problems. Rising costs on everything — including rent, pet food and medical/veterinary care. Hard-to-find housing. Even some breed-specific prejudice, as owners of larger dogs, pit bulls, Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers often have the roughest go.

But Naomi Lawson-Pobuda, Cherryland’s communications and marketing manager, suggests finding flexibility.

Perhaps instead of breed restrictions, dogs could be evaluated individually.

Animal control operations, to lessen the load on the humane society, are now doing direct adoptions.

Our northern nonprofits are often called to rescue animals from downstate that are found in awful circumstances. But to do that, adoptions have to pick up, and there has to be room in the inn for them.

We, as a pet-positive place, should find solutions that fit our fur.