United States poverty hinders pet owners’ access to veterinary care

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A new informational poll was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States. The poll surveyed 2042 US adults between March 19 and March 21, 2024 to gather new insights into the financial struggles owners face when trying to get veterinary care for their pet. One of the top findings of the poll included 43% of all pet owners indicating that they have been unable to pay for their pets’ needs at some point because of financial reasons.1

Overall, approximately 20 million pets in the US experience poverty with their families and 70% have never seen a veterinarian, according to the Humane Society.1 Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a news release, “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.”1

Some additional insight from the poll revealed the following1:

  • 89% of respondents agree that all pet owners deserve to keep their pets as long as they care for them and love them.
  • 81% of respondents believe no one should have to give up their pet if they fall on financial hard times.
  • 75% of respondents believe that overcrowded shelters need more people to adopt pets, regardless of their socio-economic status.

The Humane Society also found that 91% of pet owners surveyed are willing to make personal sacrifices to prioritize caring for their pet. About 64% would consider taking money out of their savings, taking out a loan, or going into debt to pay for veterinary care or other pet needs. Nearly half (46%) would adjust their living situation or career such as getting a new job in order to work from home, moving homes, or breaking up with a significant other to care for their pet.1

These survey responses coincide with another data collection that shows the significance of the human–animal bond. According to a Pew Research Center survey, as of 2023, many Americans (62%) own a pet, including about 35% who have more than one. Nearly all US pet owners (97%) say their pets are part of their family.2

To tackle the crisis, the Humane Society of the United States created an initiative called More Than a Pet that actively confronts this widespread issue by raising awareness and offering solutions for individuals experiencing financial difficulties and finding it challenging to obtain pet care. This campaign is supported by partners TQL, Motel 6, Smalls and Tractive, and celebrity ambassador Jackson Galaxy, a renowned cat behavior and wellness expert, author, and television host.

“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,” Galaxy said in the release.1

The Humane Society also encourages the public to lend a helping hand to someone you know or anyone experiencing a financial crisis. Food donations can be extremely helpful, as well as other pet products like toys, bedding/blankets, leashes/collars, and more. Donations directly to the Humane Society can also help those in need as the organization has donated more than $40 million worth of pet supplies, including 14 million pounds of pet food since its founding in 2002.1

References

  1. 20 million pets in the US experience poverty with their families. News release. The Humane Society of the United States. May 6, 2024. Accessed May 7, 2024. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/20-million-pets-in-the-us-experience-poverty-with-their-families-302136367.html
  2. Brown A. About half of US pet owners say their pets are as much a part of their family as a human member. Pew Research Center. July 7, 2023. Accessed May 7, 2024.

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