Dogs shown door in rough times
most standards, Dooper is one super dooper lucky dog. The English Setter has an owner who loves him (a dog trainer, in fact). He gets plenty of exercise and he eats three meals a day, a combination of canned and dry food that keeps his coat glossy and his joints well-oiled for springing and strutting.
Dooper’s owner, Pam Mitchell, says she feeds her dog the human equivalent of filet mignon. "It has chunks of avocado in it," she explains.
Mitchell, who owns Super Dooper Dog Training in Park City, isn’t sure how much her family spends on pet food every month. But, when asked about the expense, she rolls her eyes and smiles widely to make at least one thing certain: It ain’t cheap.
The fact is that Mitchell would likely be considered a fiscal conservative when compared to owners who feed their four-legged friends raw and organic grub that costs hundreds of dollars per month.
"People in Park City, [we] really take care of our animals," she said outside the Park City Animal Clinic on Sidewinder Drive Monday as one of her family’s cats, Molly, was inside getting her innards examined.
Other animals aren’t so lucky.
As families in Utah tighten their belts in the midst of an economic recession, providing for pets is harder than ever. Home foreclosures have forced families into apartments that don’t allow pets. Other families in the state simply can’t afford dog and cat food that is, at the upper limit, $2 a pound. Sadly, it’s the people who need pets the most that often lose them, King said.
She noted hospice patients and the elderly, young families and seasonal workers. When times get rough, she said, pets are usually the first luxury to go.
"There are so many animals that are victims of the economy," Cathy King, the new executive director of Friends of Animals, said in a telephone interview Monday.
The marked increase compared to 2007 in the number of pets being dropped off at Park City’s two no-kill animal shelters prompted King to work with other animal advocates to launch a statewide pet-food drive that runs until Oct. 18. Donations can be made at Petco, the Park City Animal Clinic and Silver Creek Animal Clinic. Organizers are accepting canned and dry pet food, toys, and treats that will be given to the food bank at the Christian Center of Park City and other goodwill distributors in the state.
The best home for beloved pets, animal advocates say, are the homes they are already in.
Organizers want to help people keep their pets, and to keep domesticated dogs and cats off the streets.
"The need has always been there," King said. "But it’s greater than ever now because a can of food can mean the difference between keeping a pet and not." She said that families have begun to grapple with questions that seem almost existential in their extremity. "Do we feed the dog or the child?" she imagines parents asking.
Veterinarian Randy Barbe of Silver Creek Animal Clinic hasn’t seen much of a problem with pet starvation in Park City, but he lauded the pet-food drive as an important preparation for the city because vulnerable seasonal populations and cold weather are fast approaching.
Owners don’t need to pay boutique prices for nutritious fare for animals, he said, but they should avoid feeding pets table scraps in lieu of proper food. "The problem with table scraps is that they’re made for human consumption," he said. Moreover, leftovers are often fed to animals at irregular times and in different quantities, which can lead to upset stomach or worse. Fatty foods cause indigestion and some seemingly innocuous foods, like grapes, can make dogs retch.
So far, response to the pet-food drive has been heartening. The Park City Animal Clinic collected about 200 pounds of food in its first two days filling a garbage-can sized bin. Donations have come from animal-lovers like Mitchell who say they just want to help. "I think it’s a fabulous idea," she said. "Your animals are your family, and if you’re having a difficult time feeding your human family, you may have to give up your animal family."
By contributing food, Mitchell and others are hoping to control the pet population and keep domesticated animals out of danger. "You can’t adopt every animal," she said, "so you have to try to keep them in the house."
Petco, Redstone Plaza, 6030 North Market Street
Park City Animal Clinic, 1725 Sidewinder Drive
Silver Creek Animal Clinic, 6427 North Business Park Loop Road
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A longtime Park City activist expressed worries that another Winter Olympics could exacerbate some of the issues the community as of today struggles to address. Rich Wyman’s comments were some of the only public statements in recent months addressing concerns about the efforts to stage a second Games.