The idea of a pet overpopulation crisis in North America is nothing new. In fact, it has been a constant concern of animal lovers and welfare groups for at least a century. However, unique complications of the COVID pandemic have created a perfect storm that has tilted the balance between shelter capacity and homeless animals to an even greater extreme in 2021.
In general, summer is especially difficult for shelters and rescues as it is traditionally the slowest time of the year for adoptions and, of course, it falls right in the middle of Kitten Season. Now, struggling animal care facilities are also facing staffing shortages and other COVID-related problems that have the animal welfare community in a serious predicament.
A significant reason behind the staffing shortage is essential worker fatigue combined with compassion fatigue. As caregivers to living beings, shelter/rescue staff could not ride out the pandemic from home. This means that they have been working daily under a cloud of constant anxiety over their health and the health of their loved ones for about at least a year. That stress, piled atop the emotional stress that is inevitable in their field of work, has caused a lot of people to feel it necessary to leave their jobs.
Not only are there too few people to organize adoptions, but the adoption process has been slowed in many cases due to a backlog the spay/neuter surgeries. The backlog is a result of spay/neuter surgeries having been postponed during the height of the pandemic, as well as a shortage of veterinarians, which can be partly attributed to the same essential worker fatigue we are seeing with shelter staff. Longer adoption processes less space available for new intakes.
The challenges may seem overwhelming, but there are ways to help shelters and rescues ride this wave:
Adopt if you can!
Fostering makes a huge difference! Every animal safely cared for in a foster home means room for one more animal in a shelter so that two animals are effectively saved.
Volunteer at your local organization
Millions of kittens are born on the streets and in backyards of homes and businesses. We at Alley Cat Rescue will continue our aggressive TNR advocacy and programming to keep cats and kittens out of shelters, where they are often put to sleep even at times where overcrowding is less of a problem. ACR has a new project designed to get more municipal shelters to do or facilitate TNR…stay tuned for more information!
Alley Cat Rescue is leading in the way in promoting humane and compassionate care for ALL cats.