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Debt Solutions for Pet Owners

[Jul 1, 2009.]


Plenty of news stories have covered the effects of the recession on American pet owners. As more of us struggle with sudden job losses and illnesses, some Americans face difficult choices when caring for furry companions. The quest to reduce debt may often run counter to the costs of  feeding and caring for pets.

One recent study indicates that many American pet owners spend more than $350 each year on vet bills. However, the financial impact of having a pet goes far beyond medical bills. Renters often pay higher rents despite leaving large pet deposits with landlords. Relocating for a job to an area where few landlords accept pets can force some owners to place pets for adoption or abandon them altogether, rather than face the higher costs of remaining a pet owner. Americans who remain dedicated to their pets through tough times often wrestle with mounting credit card debt, especially when pets get sick.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prevent and reduce debt without giving up the benefits of adopting a pet.

  • Consider pet insurance. Pet insurance plans make the most sense for younger animals who require little more than routine physicals. A pet insurance plan can soften the blow of a veterinarian bill if your younger pet requires emergency treatment for an illness or an accident. More importantly, a pet insurance plan can amortize the cost of routine checkups and vaccinations over the course of a year, so you don’t end up with a sudden spike in your credit card debt.

  • Boost your emergency fund. Personal finance experts tout the emergency fund as essential for managing co-payments and other unexpected medical expenses for members of your family. When your family includes a pet, your emergency fund can help absorb treatment costs as an alternative to increasing credit card debt.

  • Set clear boundaries with family and friends around your pets. One of the best ways to get out of debt is to prevent yourself from getting into debt in the first place. If you care for an older pet, have conversations with your loved ones about the decisions you might make if your pet became ill and required expensive treatments. Being realistic about your pet’s quality of life can reduce debt for your future, while giving you closure on your relationship.

  • Adopt a rescue pet, rather than buying from a pet store. Many American pet owners crave the convenience of purchasing a specific breed of dog, cat, or bird from a pet store. However, many shelters across the country boast record numbers of purebred pets along with adorable mixed breeds in need of homes. Adoption fees at many shelters cost just a fraction of the prices charged by breeders, kennels, or pet shops.

Some personal finance experts may advise against adopting a pet during a recession, citing the need to use that cash to get out of debt. However, as many pet owners already know, the unconditional love and companionship that pets provide often does more to help you get through tough times. Pet ownership may not be a sound financial investment, but it can pay off a huge emotional dividend.


About Author:

Joe Taylor Jr. is an internal business consultant for a Fortune 500 company, who writes about finance, culture, and design. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Ithaca College.

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