Shelters nearing record levels of pets after pandemic peak in adoption

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Dog at animal shelter. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS– There’s an urgent plea for those considering a pet to adopt one from a shelter. According to Petfinder, the number of adoptable pets is nearing record levels.

Petfinder, a searchable pet adoption resource, says the number of adoptable pets is up 40% compared to last year. There are 240,000 pets currently available on Petfinder.com, up from 130,000 in the summer of 2020.

The Humane Society of Missouri says its area shelters are not at capacity but they are stretched thinner than normal. A spokesperson added they do have some pets at their shelters longer than normal

Petfinder and Purina are teaming up to raise awareness about the factors driving shelter overcrowding.

“Thousands of pet shelters were and continue to be impacted by the pandemic, which has created even greater numbers of adoptable pets across the country and the need for ongoing assistance,” said Jessica Arnold, Manager of Petfinder Shelter Partner Engagement at Purina. 

According to Petfinder, several factors have resulted in this influx of adoptable pets, including:

  • Pandemic Pause in Spay/Neuter Efforts – During the height of the pandemic, efforts to spay and neuter pets decreased sharply or came to a temporary halt due to national shelter-in-place mandates and social distancing. As a result, many shelters across the country are now experiencing a wave of overcrowding due to the inundation of stray puppies and kittens.

    Some of the largest pet shelters in the US, including San Diego Humane Society and Michigan Humane have seen similar increases in pet intake. But contrary to some recent headlines, this increase is not due to higher numbers of relinquishment of pets adopted during the past year. The number of owner surrenders at shelters has remained flat throughout the past few years, and the recent influx can be largely attributed to the heightened animal reproduction rates during 2020 while spay and neuter efforts were suspended.
  • Disaster Displacement – Natural disasters like Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in Louisiana last month and caused devastating floods throughout the East Coast, have also contributed to the rise in number of displaced animals. Due to massive overcrowding at shelters within the usual transportation routes for displaced pets from New Orleans, these animals are now being relocated to states that may be already facing shelter overcrowding across the country such as Atlanta, South Carolina, Missouri, California and more.  Here is a story FOX2 did when animals from Louisiana arrived in St. Louis after the recent hurricane there.
  • Under-resourced Shelters – Additionally, many pet shelters were forced to temporarily or permanently close due to lack of funding, resources, and personnel needed to sustain during the pandemic. Petfinder noted a decrease of more than 800 active shelters on the site compared to summer of 2020. Pets from these shelters were likely transported to other locations, resulting in even more unanticipated crowding in the receiving shelters that has yet to stabilize.

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