Crisis forces Germans to turn pets out of doors

As the economic crunch spreads further, more and more animal lovers in Germany have to give up their pets because they can no longer afford to keep them.

Shelters in the German city of Cologne say they are overwhelmed by the number of abandoned animals and cannot cope with the influx.

“Owners call us and say they’re unemployed and cannot afford to look after their dogs, pay veterinary bills etc. We say we cannot give them money, and then a few days later we have found animals abandoned by our door,” complains Ruth Gosdeck, the owner of Zollstock animal shelter.

Some owners are not so honest in admitting the reasons why they're giving up their pet. Workers at the shelter say some people are afraid or embarrassed and blame it on a breakup or a sudden onset of allergies. In addition, it is not only dogs and cats which are finding themselves homeless.

At a special centre for horses in Cologne, they have had a record number of people coming in to give away their steeds. From December 2008 to March 2009 eighteen horses were brought in to just one centre and now there is simply no more room.

They have already had to turn away seven horses and are struggling to look after the ones they have after donations to the shelter plummeted. Workers say the situation is critical and although they are giving owners tips on how to cut costs, sometimes it is not enough.

“For the horses which we cannot take in, we will try to find room in another German state, but if that does not work then they will have to go to the slaughter house. It's very sad but we cannot do anything to change it,” grieves the owner of Cologne horse shelter Ruth Machelet.

Some help is at hand thanks to local residents clubbing together to find food for the animals

“It a shame, but here that is simply too little money, there is no money, no sponsors, even though there are so many rich people, no one cares about the animals. But I look forward to coming here everyday,” says local resident Christel Schivmer.

87-year-old Leo agrees, who, despite being a bit frail on his feet, joins Christel in bringing leftover fruit and vegetables for the horses.

Christel and Leo’s actions are helpful, but staff at the animal shelters say it is going to take a lot more than that to change the bleak future facing abandoned animals in Germany.