Here's an interesting article from MSN
Why you can't afford a dog
There may be room in your heart, but is there room in your budget? Making a hard decision now might prevent a heartbreaking choice later.
By Donna Freedman
How much is that doggy in the window?
At least $8,000 over his lifetime -- and that's just for basic expenses. Fido costs a lot more if he gets sick, chews up your work boots or ruins the rug. Cats are even pricier: It costs about $10,415 to be ignored until you run a can opener.
The lowdown on pet care costs
In short, if you can't find at least an extra $800 to $1,000 in your budget every year, don't get a pet. If you get laid off, start looking for foster care for your pets until times are better -- and if the job market is particularly bleak (think "unemployed in Michigan"), you may have to give them away outright.
I can already hear pet owners screaming. One reader posted this on the Smart Spending message board: "I would do anything and give up anything I have and I still wouldn't give up my two dogs and cat. I would go without so they could get their food/care, I would give up my house, I would beg if I need to."
That's thinking with your heart, not your head. If you gave up all your assets, how could you care for these creatures?
Besides, many people wouldn't have to give up their homes; they'd just put the cost of vet bills or pet food on a credit card and sink slowly into debt. But, by gum, they'd have ol' Shep right next to them when they opened the latest collection notices.
Look, I love animals. I've owned animals. But people with heavy debt loads and/or job uncertainty should not be pet shopping. And pet owners who've fallen on hard times should not max out their credit cards or risk homelessness just so Fido gets his kibble or Fluffy gets her flea dip.
'No different than deciding to have a child'
I am not heartless. I know from personal experience how a pet can grab hold of your heart. But critters are luxuries in even the best of times. A lousy economy is no time to take on or continue a financial drain if your budget is tottering.
Maybe you can staunch the financial hemorrhage by giving up other luxuries: cable TV, your cell phone, high-speed Internet, dinners out. In addition, there are ways to reduce ownership costs. Even so, the price of litter, food and replacing the things that pets ruin does insidious damage to the bottom line. Spending every dime you earn means you can never get ahead.
And, oh, the unexpected vet bills. What if your dog eats a corncob or a safety razor? Suppose your cat comes home ripped from stem to stern by a raccoon? (All three are true-life examples.) If you're really attached to the animal, you're likely to drive to the nearest veterinary clinic, hang the expense.
Case in point: A Smart Spending message board reader posting as "Manya.P" was laid off four months ago. She doesn't have much of an emergency fund. Yet she found herself shelling out almost $700 to treat her 6-year-old cat's ear infection.
"I put it on a credit card because I don't want to use up my available cash," Manya.P says. It's not the first big vet bill she's seen. When her dog was attacked by a neighbor's pooch, the neighbor paid only $300 of the $1,200 tab before skipping town.
"I am not taking in any more pets," the reader concludes. But until the ones she has die -- and that can cost, too -- she'll keep paying unexpected bills.
Weirdly, tough economic times make some people more likely to get pets. According to Marie Wheatley of the American Humane Association, the story goes like this: Your job's in jeopardy, and you've had to cut way back on fun. Wouldn't a puppy or kitten be nice?
Really bad idea. Getting a pet if you're living paycheck to paycheck "would be no different than deciding to have a child" that you can't really afford, says Wheatley, the association's president and CEO.
Help is hard to find
Well, there is at least one difference: It's a lot easier to find help for a hungry kid than for a hungry Dalmatian. Babies are eligible for WIC, food stamps and other types of emergency aid. Pet owners must pay as they go, which may mean doing without things they need -- or going into debt -- to buy cat food or heartworm medication.
What if you have no credit or your cards are maxed out? What if you've cut your budget to the bone but still have trouble making ends meet?
Some short-term help may be available. Regional rescue groups and organizations like No Paws Left Behind have limited funds to help pet owners whose "backs are up against the wall," says Cheryl Lang, the organization's founder.
But they can't help everyone. That's when the really tough decision comes in: finding a new home for your pet, either temporarily or permanently. That could mean:
• Fostering by friends or family.
• Contacting a breed-specific rescue group (if applicable).
• Contacting a general animal rescue group or seeking a no-kill shelter. (Petfinder is a good source for both.)
: finding a new home for your pet, either temporarily or permanently. That could mean:
Joel Silverman, the host of Animal Planet's "Good Dog U," has been traveling around the country for the past four months to promote his new book, "What Color Is Your Dog?" At shelter after shelter he's seen the same thing: a "huge" number of animals abandoned or returned because of the poor economy. The owners "just can't afford them," Silverman says.
No hard data exist on this trend, although Humane Association spokeswoman Kelley Weir notes that "all our member shelters agree that there is an increase (in relinquishments) due to the economy."
Who's really suffering?
Maybe you're thinking, "Oh, but Bowser would die without me!" No, he wouldn't. We are not indispensable. We're just a nation of anthropomorphists. What we mean is that we would feel bad if separated from our pets.
Silverman says some animals cannot be successfully sent to foster care. They're too bonded to their humans and would not do well in new environments, he says.
Alan Beck, the director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, doesn't agree. "There's no evidence that dogs die of broken hearts. They're happy when you're there -- maybe they even prefer you," Beck says.
But if sent to foster care or even to new owners, most pets are "not going to spend days and days worrying about where you are. Nor are they going to let their own health fall apart waiting for you."
That said, Beck -- a pet owner himself -- understands why someone wouldn't want to give up an animal companion. "It's really one of the great joys in their life," he says. This is particularly true of people who've been hard-hit by the economic downturn: "(A pet) may be the one comfort they had left."
Some people refer to their pets as their "babies" or "children." That's a common way of describing the way we feel about these creatures that are so dependent on us, according to Colorado psychotherapist Nancy Brooks of JustAnswer. For some people, even the temporary relinquishment of a pet is "not that much different than having a child put in foster care" in terms of heartbreak.
Yet it may be necessary. And if you can't get a job that pays enough to get your "babies" back?
"You have to accept that you've done the best you can absolutely do and concede the circumstances. It's not in your control any longer," says Brooks, who owns four dogs.
'Your ultimate responsibility'
When people say "I'd never give up my pet," they're usually speaking from a position of privilege. Sure, they may feel broke right now, but they're still in a place where they can say what they would "never" do. If you were ever truly destitute, you'd know better than to make that kind of claim.
Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you lived in your sedan with four cats or out in a culvert with a husky-shepherd mix. Maybe all of you survived. But most of us aren't cut out to take that kind of risk -- and frankly, we shouldn't. It's too dangerous. A human life is worth more than the chance to nurture a corgi or a ferret for a few more years.
Besides, Fido deserves better than car camping and eating old Wonder bread from the food bank. Or suppose you got sick and had to leave your shelter in the woods. Would you want your kitten to slowly starve while trying to stay ahead of predators?
Lang, of No Paws Left Behind, has four cats that she calls "my kids." But she does not advocate giving up everything in order to keep a pet. After all, what kind of care could a homeless, destitute owner provide?
"You have to do what's best for the pet," Lang says. "That's your ultimate responsibility."
Animals are not babies. They are not people. They do enrich our lives -- and in return they deserve decent care. If you can't afford to provide that care, then you shouldn't have a pet.
It's not fair. It's not easy. It's just life.