IN THE NEWS: Brooklyn residents discuss affinity for their adopted pets

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IN THE NEWS: On NOV 10, 2017

Despite tight living quarters and hectic schedules, New Yorkers still make time for their pets. One in three households in New York City has a pet, which is half of the national average, but still impressive for the city that never sleeps.  The Huffington post recently ranked New York City as one of the top 10 most dog-friendly cities in the U.S., citing the city’s walkability as the main reason.

Currently, Brooklyn has 20,996 dogs licensed with the Department of Health, however only about 20 percent of dogs are licensed, meaning there may actually be tens of thousands more dogs in Brooklyn. A geographical breakdown from the New York City Economic Development Corporation shows that the neighborhood with the most cats and dogs in Brooklyn is Williamsburg. Neighborhoods in south Brooklyn such as Red Hook, Park Slope, Borough Park, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and Sheepshead Bay also boast high populations of dogs and cats.

On both a national and citywide level, the pet industry has expanded significantly between 2006 and 2015. During that time, Brooklyn has gained 10 veterinary businesses and 19 pet stores. It has also seen the largest increase in jobs in both pet stores and veterinary clinics than any other borough: The number of veterinarians increased from 463 to 682 and the number of pet store employees has almost doubled.

“I opened this store out of necessity,” said Mojdan Haak, owner of East Williamsburg pet store Bushy Tails. According to Haak, there were no other pet stores in the neighborhood when Bushy Tails first opened, but plenty of pet owners. Today, most of her costumers are cat owners.

“I think this is because it is easier to have a cat in an apartment than a dog,” Mojdan said. Bushy Tails’ large display windows feature adoptable cats that the owner has fostered from the Animal Care Center and Brooklyn Animal Action. For Haak, connecting cats in need to their forever homes is the most rewarding part of owning the space.   

Over in Bushwick, the owner of an unnamed community garden has adopted two cats of his own. The owner, known as El Super, bought the empty lot 30 years ago for only $4 dollars. Since then, he has been offered millions of dollars to sell it. He refuses, because the garden has become an important meeting place for his neighbors to grow food, socialize and listen to music.

It has also become a refuge for two of the neighborhood’s abandoned cats, named Brownie and Whitey. “These cats used to be pets, but were abandoned by their owners,” he said.

“I gained their trust with food and patience, and provide them with shelter and any sort of vitamins and supplements they need. Aqui, nadie se muere por falta de comida [‘Here, no one should die from lack of food’].”

Owning a dog can be a bit trickier than owning a cat, but many Brooklyn residents believe that the benefits of spending time with dogs outweigh the difficulties.

“You don’t go out as much when you own a dog, but I’m OK with that because I am kind of a homebody anyway,” said Jessica, a Brooklyn resident of 10 years regarding her newly adopted dog Luna. Jessica adopted Luna from an organization called Free Korean Dogs through an event hosted by PS9 Pets.

“I fell in love with her temperament instantly. She is extremely calm and sweet. I have also found that even through the craziest predicament, things always work out in the end. For instance, for her surgery,” Jessica said, referring to Luna’s bright turquoise cast on her front left leg, the remnant of an unhealed fracture she suffered in Korea.

Hayley Small, an urban planning professional who has lived in Greenpoint for 4 years and now lives in Bushwick, feels similarly. “I don’t get to spend time with Junie much during the week, so I have to make sure that my weekend plans include her.” According to Small, Junie’s transformation since her adoption has been worth it, “She has always been sweet, pretty much an angel. She was so scared at first, but soon became her normal self. It has been amazing to see.”

Dogs are known to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, ease loneliness and even improve cardiovascular health. Perhaps this is a reason Brooklyn professionals choose to adopt them.

“When you work in the service industry, sometimes you have to put up with so much,” said Robert Giles, a bartender and beverage consultant in Ditmas Park, “I just wanted a source of unconditional love to come home to, which is why I adopted Hermes.”

For Robert, it was important that he adopted a dog in need, so he turned to the Animal Care Center of New York. “They really deserve to be praised for the work that they do, they have one site in every borough and have very reasonable adoption fees. It was like thirty bucks to adopt Hermes, and he is the best.”

In a city that can feel isolating and separate from nature, dogs may provide the antidote. “I grew up in the country, and for me dogs are a great connection to nature. They are also great if you live alone, and my dog gets a lot of attention from strangers,” said Ann Mccoy, Brooklyn resident, lecturer at the Yale School of Drama, of her spritely pug Maeve.  

Because of the unconditional love and support dogs offer their owners, Brooklyn dog lovers go above and beyond to care for their dogs. “My favorite part of working here is spoiling the dogs that come in!” exclaimed Melinda, a salesperson at pet store Brooklyn Bark, as she helped a costumer fit her labradoodle into a winter coat.

“I also educate people about their animal’s health and answer any questions they may have. We specialize in raw food, especially for cats, who have a harder time digesting heavily processed dry food.”

For these Brooklynites, rescuing and caring for their animals is worth it because they fulfill the most basic human need for love.  As dog owner Hayley Small put it, “There are so many animals out there that need love. You learn how to take care of these living beings, and they provide you with endless unconditional love.”

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