Pa. shelters see spike in homeless pets, economy blamed

National statistics may suggest we are slowly pulling out of the economic meltdown of 2008, but shelter statistics say otherwise. Newspapers in Berks and York counties report a huge spike in pet drop offs. (We imagine the same is true in the Philadelphia area but have not heard any specific reports.)

The Animal Rescue League of Berks County reports taking in double the number of dogs so far this year as they did in all of 2010. Shelter operators suspect it's the economy - that owners can't afford to feed their pets or provide veterinary care - but rarely do owners give a reason. Executive director Harry Brown III tells the Reading Eagle the shelter wants to help keep pets in their homes and will provide food if asked.

So seek help folks, before abandoning your pets to an unknown fate.

Neither the Berks League nor York SPCA are no-kill shelters, so the chances of survival for these animals dwindles with each incoming pet.

Of course, many of us would eat Ramen noodles rather than give up a pet, but at least the owners are taking their animals to the shelters where they may stand a chance for a second chance at life.

A rash of cases where people have simply dumped animals by the roadside (such as what happened to a litter of gorgeous puppies in Honesdale and dozens of puppies - likely breeder "overstock" - in Lancaster) or simply left their homes with their pets still in them. In one particularly heinous case west of Harrisburg, the tenants left 20 cats (eight were dead by the time they were found and the others were emaciated) locked in their former home to starve to death.

A big bag of cat food was found inside a closed bathroom out of reach of the cats. That couple from Newville - who were briefly jailed after being charged -will stand trial for animal cruelty.

In York County, which has experienced a high number of abused pit bull cases recently, SPCA staff report taking in 200 more animals so far this year as the same time last year - including an unusual increase in the number of small dogs, the York Dispatch reports.

The shelter - like many - is trying to ease overcrowding - and save more lives - by offering discounts on cat adoptions. Some animal welfare advocates find this practice controversial because it makes it easier for individuals who might not be responsible , or have the resources to care for a pet, to adopt one.

(Photo Bill Bowden/York Dispatch)