In the third year of the worst economic crisis ever to hit Venezuela, residents have now started abandoning their pets because they cannot afford to feed them anymore.

Heartbreaking images of the abandoned, emaciated pets, scavenging for food or just staring into space with doleful resignation, their once cared for coats, now bedraggled, prove the worst of it is not yet over.

Venezuelans are abandoning their pets everywhere, from street corners and curbs, public shelters, fields and parks, says Maria Artega, a volunteer worker for animal welfare.

"The crisis has hit hard," she said.

"People are abandoning their dogs because they can't afford food and because they're leaving the country."

Artega runs a rundown animal sanctuary in the outskirts of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, and according to her, people are coming to leave even pedigree dogs. Other shelters and animal centers in the city have similar stories to tell, with one in Caracas's Barita neighborhood claiming that nearly 10 dogs were abandoned per day this last summer.

In fact, some city shelters, hard-pressed for supplies themselves, have replaced dog food with chicken, an alternative which never would have been considered in more prosperous times.

In Venezuela, the average minimum wage is $23 a month, whereas a 20 kg bag of dog food costs almost $50 (prices have doubled since the inflation hit the roof). With no money to feed themselves, destitute Venezuelans have no option but to give up their dogs.

This is not the first time news of helpless animals suffering because of the Venezuelan crisis has surfaced. Back in July, 50 resident animals in a zoo in Caracas, died of neglect and starvation because the zoo authorities could not muster funds to care for the animals anymore.

With triple digit inflation, increasing crime rates, and massive food shortage, combined with a economic mismanagement by a fledgling administration under Nicolas Maduro, for many starving Venezuelans and their pets, this may as well be the end of the road.

All images sourced from Reuters