It is estimated that shelters are housing around 100,000 more dogs and cats than at this time last year. There are several reasons for this, including staff shortages due to Covid-19, inflation, which is making it harder for families to afford adopting a pet or keeping the pets they have, and a housing crisis. The influx of pets who were lost during the 4th of July and not claimed by their families has served to exacerbate the problem (only about 2% of lost cats at shelters are reunited with their families*).
Then, of course, there is kitten season.
City, county, and private shelters are bursting at the seams. This means that healthy, adoptable animals are at high risk of being euthanized. Several shelters announced ahead of July 4th that they may have to euthanize animals - something they have not needed to do in many years.
Even the cats and dogs who have a space in the shelter, at least for now, often suffer emotionally and psychologically because there are not enough staff and volunteers to attend to them. In some shelters, kittens are getting only 10 - 20 minutes of playtime with a caretaker. This isn’t enough to keep a kitten feeling content or loved, and that scant human interaction can lead to unsocialized behavior in kittens, which then makes their chances of adoption less, and future relinquishment back to a shelter greater.
Many shelters are trying to combat overcrowding by offering limited-time free or half-cost adoptions. Whether this will have a great enough impact on the problem for many of them remains to be seen, but if nothing else, the concurrent adoption push from such a large number of shelters is certainly raising awareness.
There are a few ways that individuals like you and I can pitch in and save some lives.
There are thousands of animals at risk in shelters who need a savior. They are all entitled to full lives.
*Hurley KF and Levy JK (2022) Rethinking the Animal Shelter's Role in Free-Roaming Cat Management. Front. Vet. Sci. 9:847081. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2022.847081
Alley Cat Rescue is leading in the way in promoting humane and compassionate care for ALL cats.