On the Gulf Coast, thousands of dogs and cats are being dropped off at animal shelters – a direct result of the BP oil spill. The disaster means scores of unemployed people are struggling to make ends meet, and are desperately looking for ways to cut back. According to NBC News, a lot of them are deciding they need to give up their pets in order to feed their families and pay bills.

In St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana an endless stream of dogs has been pouring into the shelter since the oil spill began. In fact, the number of drop-offs has increased 500 percent. Similar numbers of pets have been given up at other coastal shelters. From Chihuahuas to Labradors, two or three dogs are crammed into every cage. To make room, pets that are unlikely to be adopted are often euthanized – including skinny, old, ill and mixed-breed dogs and cats. Shelter workers say the oil spill is just one more blow to innocent animals, and that shelters were already bursting at the seams because of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, plus the economic recession. So, what’s being done to help relieve the overcrowding?

  • Some of the more “adoptable” dogs – like purebred Labs and Yorkies - are being sent to shelters in other states, because they stand a better chance of getting a new home if they go elsewhere.
  • Also, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is stepping in to help. They’re offering free pet food and veterinary care to out-of-work pet owners, which alone could help keep 1,000 pets with their owners.
  • You could help by becoming a volunteer pet foster parent, where you temporarily care for a homeless, injured or abused dog or cat until a shelter can find them a permanent home.
  • So, what should you do if you’re no longer able to care for your pets? Call your local animal shelter or the Humane Society for help. Also, check out the website BestFriends.org. They’re dedicated to placing every homeless pet with a family.