Though it could be said that all wild and domesticated life needs protection, there is only so much anyone can do for wild creatures. However, once you take responsibility of a wild thing as a pet or even a previously domesticated animal (bred in captivity) then you have a responsibility to that animal almost as if it were one of your own children.
During times when most people are financially flush this is less of a problem because most people take fairly good care of all their pets unless they are children who don't know any better.
But in times like these all creatures that are domesticated from horses, cattle, livestock in general, pets in general are often suffering. The main reason during times like these is people don't have enough money to even feed themselves and their children so pets do without often or die starving in a foreclosed house or are abandoned in a rural area and especially if it is a dog bigger than 50 to 70 pounds it often joins with other dogs to create a "Wolf Pack" to hunt together for food. When I lived on a 7 acre ranch with a Shetland pony for my 5 year old daughter, goats, Fuzzy lop bunnies and pumpkin, "The scariest Tomcat" I have ever known or had as a pet that literally eventually bit everyone nearby. However, he was also the best mouser or ratter I have ever seen which is why we put up with him on the ranch for so long. He was a completely feral kitten that we then raised.
Anyway, we had to deal with packs of large dogs in that area killing or maiming goats or sheep so the locals eventually just shot the dogs to get rid of the problem. Especially the Goat herds with milkers whose goats were very valuable and would sometimes "dry up" (stop giving milk) if they were too scared by the dogs.
So, I guess what I'm saying is that if people are upset during these times by people abandoning their pets because they simply can't afford them any way they can, then local cities and counties or Humane societies have to be willing to either accept these pets for free or pick them up from these financially desperate people. Otherwise, you will find more and more dead pet carcasses in the foreclosed houses or rented houses and apartments when people go homeless when their Unemployment compensation runs out.
So, rather than put people in jail or fining them because they can't take care of their pets which just means that more people who can't find good homes for their pets will turf them somewhere or leave them to die in abandoned homes or apartments, why not have a pet amnesty where people can drop off their pet much like they can a baby now rather than put it in a trashcan somewhere. I think pets need this kind of protection too, so they at least have some chance of a good life somewhere.