BEIRUT, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- The Lebanese veterinarian Hassan Farhat feels frustrated after his clinic's revenues dropped tremendously in light of Lebanon's steep economic crisis.
Farhat has been running his clinic for five years in the southern city of Nabatieh but is now unable to cover his rent and other expenses.
"I can say that veterinary medicine has collapsed as more and more citizens can no longer afford the cost of breeding animals amid the deteriorating economic and living conditions," Farhat told Xinhua while examining a dog at his clinic.
Farhat recalled that his clinic used to teem with customers with their pets, but now it has become almost empty, with only a few visitors daily.
Adel Mansour, another veterinarian, said as people could no longer afford their pet's healthcare and food, many are forced to abandon them, causing the rapid collapse of the sector.
Mansour cited a study by Lebanon's Syndicate of Veterinarians, which said that around 60 veterinarians have left their clinics over the past few months.
"Moreover, dozens of stores selling pet supplies have closed due to the losses incurred from the sharp fluctuation in the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar in the parallel market," he said.
Lebanon has been facing an unprecedented financial crisis caused by the shortage of U.S. reserves, which led to a collapse of the local currency and devaluation of salaries, plunging over 80 percent of the population into poverty.
Most people today focus their spending on basic needs, including medicines, food, and school fees, with all other items crossed out of the list.
"It has become challenging for me to take care of my three cats and dog, and I am looking for friends who can adopt them," Najwa Chedid, a woman in her 30s, told Xinhua.
Chedid said it costs a fortune nowadays to pay for her pets' daily meals and hygiene items, including shampoos, toothpaste, and brushes.
Likewise, Ihab Munther, a university student, said it cost him over 1.5 million Lebanese pounds (around 45 U.S. dollars) to take his dog to the veterinarian for checkups and seasonal medicines.
"It has become a heavy burden to feed them as well... Can you imagine that feeding a dog may cost around 4 million Lebanese pounds per month, equivalent to a monthly salary in Lebanon?" he asked.
The increased number of abandoned pets has given rise to the number of charitable shelters across Lebanon.
Hussein Hamza, the owner of a shelter in Nabatieh, told Xinhua that he has over 400 dogs in his shelter, and he expects the number to continue to rise later this year.
The young man covers the expenses with his own money as well as assistance from donors and environmental activists, adding that the cost of caring for pets in shelters has increased ninefold over the past year.