In their struggle to survive the recession, many families have had to make the difficult decision to give up their beloved pets. With an annual cost of around $300 to $900 to keep an animal, according to the ASPCA, the expense is simply too much. The animals may end up in over-crowded shelters, kennels, or on the street.
That’s why Kimberly Carrier started The Pet Project in the Twin Cities to help people hold on to their furry companions. The Pet Project, which launched in July, distributes pet food to food shelves in the area, provides donation boxes at local pet stores, and offers resources to find pet friendly housing. Carrier brings the food to the food shelves herself, and says it is usually gone within the first few days, if not within 24 hours.
Carrier, who works at a salon, did not expect to be heading up her own non-profit, but hearing about this increasing problem inspired her to act. “I had a couple pets of my own, and if you’ve already lost everything else, you kind of need your pet.” she says. “It bothered me enough that I started talking about it at work and people just started giving me really good advice. I couldn’t not do it.”
Carrier points out that not only is it terrible for the family to give up a pet, it is very traumatizing for the animals as well. “Rather than dumping these pets at a shelter where you have to subsidize their care, why not intervene at an earlier stage?” she asks.
Some who live in poverty sacrifice their own health rather than give up the companionship of their pet. Carrier says she brought some dog food to a man living in a camper in her neighborhood. “I noticed that his dog was almost fat and he was almost emaciated,” Carrier says. “When I gave him the food, he said, ‘Great, now I can start getting some groceries.’”
Carrier stresses the importance of people’s relationships to their pets, particularly when they are going through hard times. “I think that people who are otherwise marginalized attach to a four legged friend,” she says. “Your pets don’t care if you’re wearing last year’s shoes. They reinforce and validate people’s self worth.”
Though she is running the project on her own, Carrier has gotten lots of help from friends and local businesses to create a website, design a logo, and get donations. Donation boxes have been set up at UrbAnimal and Bone Adventure pet stores.
Her next step is to contact local veterinarians and ask them to donate one free appointment a month with vaccinations. “I have a lot of big dreams,” she says. While the project is currently run through the website, Carrier hopes The Pet Project will eventually have its own location.
Jane Biliter (email email@example.com) is a recent graduate of Macalester College and an intern at the TC Daily Planet.
|Support people-powered non-profit journalism! Volunteer, contribute news, or become a member to keep the Daily Planet in orbit.|