Area animal shelters are struggling to cope with a drastic increase in pet surrenders after seeing a rise in adoptions in 2020.
According to the national nonprofit database Shelter Animals Count, in the first nine months of 2022, 7.3% more animals entered shelters compared to those that left.
Shelter Animals Count also states that all regions in the United States experienced more cats and dogs entering shelters than leaving.
“We have found 2022 to be a very difficult year where we’ve never had so many requests for surrenders,” said Linda Marino, president of The Animal Haven, a shelter in North Haven.
“We’re no-kill so we can only take up to our capacity, so it’s really heartbreaking for us when we can’t take in a lot of these animals that need to be surrendered by people.”
Earlier this month, the Record-Journal reported that the Meriden Humane Society has also seen an increase in animal surrenders. Marino said The Animal Haven staff have also found that people are dumping animals on the street, as Meriden Humane Society staff reported.
“A cat and a carrier on an abandoned street, dogs tied to a sign post on our property,” Marino said. “It’s very, very heartbreaking.”
During the peak of the pandemic in 2020, many shelters and adoption agencies saw an increase in pet adoption inquiries.
“During COVID, we saw a ton of inquiries,” said Susan Mazer, founder of Southington Animal Rescue.
She said “2020 just had hundreds of people interested because everyone was home, so even during that time, we were careful to make sure that, yes they were home and they were with their pet, but were they still want that pet when they were back to work and traveling again and that wasn’t just a whim too.”
Marino said The Animal Haven is also careful with adoptions, trying to avoid failed adoptions, but the increase in surrenders could be a result in a surge of COVID adoptions. Because of the number of surrenders, Marino said The Animal Haven has had to turn away animals.
“We hope that there is someplace else those animals can go or the person may decide to keep the animal, but there’s nothing we can do when we’re at capacity,” Marino said “... They’re not animals adopted from us, they’re adopted from other places.”
Due to the current state of the economy, Mazer said people may be struggling financially, which makes it hard to continue to be able to afford the necessities that come with having a pet.
“They have trouble feeding their pets, they have trouble spaying and neutering their pets, so a lot of people call and say, ‘I have to move and I can’t take my pet anymore, can you take it?’ Or, ‘Can you help with food or things like that?’” Mazer said.
Mazer said in those situations, she and other volunteers at Southington Rescue try to help keep the animals with their owners.
“So if somebody says I can’t afford food, we steer them toward a food pantry, Southington Community Services and often we get donations and they’ll end up with us to help people to feed their pets,” Mazer said. “When people are struggling, the last thing they want to do is lose their animal, so if we can keep it with them, we’ll help with that.”
Mazer added that sometimes the volunteers will steer a pet owner to a low cost spay and neuter clinic.
“We try to provide them with resources to be able to keep their animals,” Mazer said. “If they want to surrender, we’re so small that if I can’t take it and nine times out of 10 I can’t, I give them a list of no-kill shelters in the state and we try to steer them toward someone who can take them or sometimes we post what’s called a courtesy posting, so I’ll put the animal on Adopt a Pet, I’ll screen everyone, but they’ll keep the animal with them until they have to surrender it.”
Screening future pet owners is important, Mazer said.
“We don’t want people to ever give away their pets,” Mazer said. “There are too many crazy people out there that are wanting to get their hands on animals, so we’re really careful to always screen and always charge a fee. It’s not about making money, but somebody is not going to do harm to a cat if they have to pay $50.” Future
Because The Animal Haven is a no-kill animal shelter, Marino said “it is all about turnover.”
“We are praying that there is an uptick in adoptions because obviously with a no-kill shelter, the more we’re able to adopt out, the more that we are able to take in,” Marino said.
Mazer said that because of expensive veterinary bills, this year she is thinking of looking for new grants to apply for.
“The vet bills far outweigh what we ever take in in adoption fees, so just always looking for ways to try to keep it afloat and try as best we can to help, even though we’re pretty small,” Mazer said.