Among many misguided ones Taken this year By the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, was a lively 8-year-old black Labrador, weighing around 90 pounds.
He was the type of dog the shelter once considered an easy adoption — social and cute, with “just a phenomenal personality,” said shelter administrator Mindy Natchioni.
“Pre-pandemic, he would have been there in a little while,” Netticioni said. “People would have lined up to get him. But he was with us for about two months. It’s quite unusual to have a Lab, regardless of age, stay with us that long.”
Cuyahoga County’s shelter situation reflects the ongoing boom in shelter facilities across the country. According to an animal advocacy agency, there are about a quarter of a million more pets in shelters than at the same time last year. Aggravating circumstances For facilities Already experimenting The pet population crisis.
Shelter Animal Count, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that maintains a national database of sheltered animal statistics, says there are about 245,000 more dogs and cats in shelters. Awaiting adoption Or promoting this holiday season, marking the third year in a row that numbers have increased.
“The numbers show that shelters are managing more populations than they have the capacity to handle,” said Stephanie Filer, executive director of Shelter Animal Count. “This is not a sustainable gap. This is something that needs to be addressed quickly, or we will see a reduction in services or an increase in euthanasia.”
Naticchioni said the Cuyahoga County shelter is designed to hold a population of 111 but has been at or over capacity several times this year. Before the pandemic, dogs typically stayed at the shelter for 15 to 18 days before being adopted or fostered, she said. The range is now 28 to 30 days.
At the same time, the daily number of animals at the shelter has increased from about 90 or 100 before the pandemic to about 140 now.
“We’re out of place,” she said. “It’s not so much that we’re taking more. They’re staying longer.”
In Dogs Available for Adoption: Puppies and Purebreds
While cats are “doing very well,” Filer said, dog adoptions are expected to decrease 1.2 percent from 2022, according to the Shelter Animal Count report. Meanwhile, 5% more animals than left entered facilities in 2023.
Shelters are seeing an unprecedented number of dogs, Filer said — not to mention doodles, oodles and posse — because more small-breed dogs, purebreds and so-called “designer dogs” face the same economic, logistical and stylistic challenges. End up in such facilities for operational reasons. What other dogs do. Nearly four in five shelters responding to the national Shelter Animal Count survey said people would be “surprised” by the variety of dogs in their population.
“There are a lot of puppies,” Filer said. “And dogs of all breeds. What was once considered a rarity to find in shelters is now common – purebred dogs, purpose-bred mutts. Some shelters have dozens of Labradoodles and Gold Endoodles.
Naticchioni said similar trends have been observed at the Cuyahoga County shelter.
“We’ve seen a lot of doodles this year,” he said. “We just had an 11-month-old sheep paddle.”
‘It will require a community solution’
The county’s shelter animals blame the growing domestic breeding boom and the ongoing problem of puppy mills as part of the reason for the increase. More than half of the shelters that responded to the agency’s survey said they had adopted dogs from owners who bought overpriced dogs they couldn’t afford to keep and those who fostered them disposed of the dogs. was no longer needed or needed.
While the number of owners surrendering their dogs has not necessarily increased, the number of strays has, Filer said.
“When you combine that with the reduction in strays reclaimed by their owners, it shows that these are animals that are likely to be surrendered,” Filer said.
Overcrowding issues come as shelters face budget cuts and staff shortages, competing with the service industry for potential employees.
“Shelters have always relied on strong volunteer programs to fill these gaps, and those programs have not returned to the levels they were at before the pandemic,” Filer said.
Meanwhile, staffing shortages and a national shortage of veterinarians make it difficult for shelters to maintain adequate health care. one A national study An estimated 2.7 million spay and neuter surgeries were not performed as a result of the pandemic because animal shelters deemed the services unnecessary, “which is why we’re seeing more shelters with dogs,” Filer said. .
Shelter Animal Count encourages prospective owners looking to adopt dogs to visit local shelters and rescues or use adoption databases such as AdoptAPet.com to find animals that can be rehomed. need to. Pets adopted from shelters and rescues usually already have the benefit of being spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped.
“Shelters have to make tough decisions every day that don’t reflect something the shelter did wrong, but something that’s happening in the community,” Filer said. “So just as it’s a community problem, it’s going to require a community solution.”