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Animal shelters across the U.S. are overflowing: 'We're inundated'

In the lobby of the Inland Valley Humane Society & SPCA shelter in Pomona, Nikole Bresciani gestured toward rows of kennels erected a few months ago to house an influx of stray cats. In another area, pop-up crates for dogs were stacked on wheels.

To Bresciani, the president and chief executive of the shelter, it was more evidence of the flood of animals coming into the facility since the COVID lockdown.

“We’re inundated,” she said of her organization, which provides shelter services for a dozen cities in the region. “We’ve never had kennels in the lobby for cats.”

An overcrowding crisis has gripped animal shelters across the state and nationwide, exacerbated by a shortage of veterinarians, the high cost of pet care and the overwhelming of rescue organizations, which traditionally take on the overflow from shelters and largely rely on volunteers to foster animals in their homes.

The Animal Care Centers of New York City, which runs the city's public animal shelters, announced in October that it was closed for most dog surrenders because it was too full. Earlier this year, shelters in North Carolina and Texas also temporarily suspended most intakes for similar reasons.

"We are out of space for new arrivals," the New York City organization said on its website, requesting that people take stray dogs into their homes instead of to a shelter.

Adoptions aren’t keeping up with the number of dogs coming in, leading to higher euthanasia rates, according to Shelter Animals Count, a nonprofit that tracks shelter statistics nationwide. In California, 9% of dogs at government-run or contracted shelters and rescue organizations were put down from January through October last year, and 13% were put down through October of this year, according to the group’s online database. The figures are similar nationally.

“We can’t get the animals out fast enough,” said Cynthia Rigney, board president of the San Gabriel Valley Humane Society, which shelters homeless animals from Temple City, San Gabriel and Duarte. “We are all under the gun. It’s a mess.”

At the seven shelters run by Los Angeles County's Department of Animal Care and Control, pandemic and “managed intake” protocols that limited dog admissions resulted in fewer dogs in shelter kennels and euthanasias dipping in 2020 and 2021. But those numbers have since increased.

Many clinics considered spaying and neutering animals nonessential during the height of the pandemic and cut back on performing the procedures. Now, shelters say they are seeing more pregnant dogs and more puppies.

Rigney said backyard breeding rose after the pandemic began as well, especially that of larger dogs that require a higher level of maintenance.

“Cute little huskies grow up to be big husky dogs — they need to be trained and walked,” she said, adding that they're among the dogs that are ending up in shelters. “We’re primarily filled with big dogs.”

To address the overcrowding, the Los Angeles City Council recently moved to halt new permits for dog breeding until the six shelters it operates are down to 75% capacity for three months in a row.

L.A. County considered making the same move, but in a recent report, Marcia Mayeda, director of the county Department of Animal Care and Control, advised against it, saying litters from breeders are not driving shelter intakes. Mayeda said that in the last decade, the department had issued at most two breeding licenses annually. Meanwhile, the city of L.A. issued 2,152 licenses to breed dogs just last year.

The city of L.A. has set a goal of saving at least 90% of impounded animals. It has met the benchmark for dogs in recent years, but not for cats, according to statistics posted on its website.

Its approach, however, has critics who argue that keeping animals alive but locked in kennels in overcrowded conditions is inhumane, and worse than euthanizing them peacefully.

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by Anonymousreply 20December 3, 2023 7:30 PM

In contrast, at the seven shelters run by L.A. County Animal Care and Control, the number of dogs put down almost doubled between 2020 and 2022, surpassing pre-pandemic levels even though there were fewer intakes last year than before the pandemic.

Mayeda said that her department is doing a better job of offering resources to help owners keep their pets, and that the animals coming in now are more likely to have medical or behavioral issues.

"The percentage of the animals that are coming in with problems is higher," Mayeda said. "It's more likely that they could be euthanized — for very legitimate reasons."

But records show that more dogs are being put down across the county shelter system because there is limited space and not enough interest by adopters, especially at the Palmdale and Lancaster shelters, where euthanasia rates are the highest.

To address overcrowding, staff at the Inland Valley Humane Society have offered incentives for adopters and fosters, including waiving adoption fees, hosting evening adoption events and even offering $200 gift cards to convince people to foster animals.

"We're constantly feeling like we have to be so creative," said MaryAna DeLosSantos, the organization's director of operations. "This is uncharted territory."

by Anonymousreply 1December 3, 2023 1:29 PM

Dollface thread.

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by Anonymousreply 2December 3, 2023 1:30 PM

Hmm, this is because a very large quantity of people are selfish creeps who wanted animals for company during Covid and now can't be bothered looking after them any more.

by Anonymousreply 3December 3, 2023 1:34 PM

Rescue groups were importing dogs from the Caribbean to meet demand a few years ago. A friend had one of them and it’s not a great dog, but she loves it so the situation worked for her. They also lie about the ages of animals and call pit bulls anything but. And every once in a while you see an article about a dog who has been “saved” but required surgery and three months of convalescence and has paralyzed hind legs and requires diapers and a cart. In my book, that’s abuse. So I tend to not believe anything they say. But I believe this. Of course people are surrendering pets. Inexperienced dog owners who adopted rescue animals with issues are now going back to the office 2-5 days a week and landlords in urban and urban adjacent areas are no longer making concessions and are less willing to consider pets. Not to mention the ridiculous expectations of medical care. Cancer treatments for ten year-old dogs. Pay for a kid’s braces and put the dog down humanely. After a nice steak dinner.

by Anonymousreply 4December 3, 2023 2:06 PM

Here’s my girl. I adopted her from the shelter in 2019 when my mom was put on hospice and begged for a cat. My mom died in 2020 and this girl is mine. She’s the sweetest cat, doesn’t hiss or scratch me. I can’t believe someone surrendered her.

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by Anonymousreply 5December 3, 2023 2:14 PM

The shelters in my area are being constantly closed due to overcrowding. I see constant pleas on the lost and found Facebook group about found and abandoned pets, mainly dogs. To top it off, respiratory viruses keep sweeping through, and they close for that as well. It’s terrible.

I would vote for any candidate who would address this situation. But they’re too busy with stupid shit, like book banning in schools.

by Anonymousreply 6December 3, 2023 3:16 PM

Pet culture contributed to this.

by Anonymousreply 7December 3, 2023 3:18 PM

R6, you mention respiratory illnesses and there’s a pneumonia going around that killing dogs. It’s sad that people get these animals as accessories.

by Anonymousreply 8December 3, 2023 3:37 PM

There is an enormous difference between shelters and rescues.

Rescues have laughably ridiculous adoption requirements - no honey, I'm not giving you three years tax returns to prove I can financially support a pet. Also, if I don't have a pet now, the reason I'm looking, how exactly am I supposed to have "my" vet's phone number, let alone recommendation. I'm also no letting you "inspect" my home.

I get that they need to be certain that they need to screen adoptions for solid people, not randos who want to adopt a cat to feed to their pet python. But, rescues are run by animal hoarders.

It's really no wonder that the shelters are overrun.

by Anonymousreply 9December 3, 2023 3:53 PM

"To Bresciani, the president and chief executive of the shelter, it was more evidence of the flood of animals coming into the facility since the COVID lockdown."

The last COVID lockdown was years ago. What has the current situation got to do with COVID?

by Anonymousreply 10December 3, 2023 4:49 PM

[quote]The last COVID lockdown was years ago. What has the current situation got to do with COVID?

If I had to guess, it's that a LOT of people adopted during covid through both shelters AND through animal breeders. However, now that people are working less from home and have other things to do besides take care of pets, a flood of these adopted animals have been surrendered creating a huge oversupply.

by Anonymousreply 11December 3, 2023 4:59 PM

R8, my shelters are full of Pitt bull-types. I don’t consider that breed “accessories”.

by Anonymousreply 12December 3, 2023 5:03 PM

Vet costs are completely out of control.

by Anonymousreply 13December 3, 2023 5:30 PM

[quote] The last COVID lockdown was years ago. What has the current situation got to do with COVID?

It's the same reason food prices are so high.

Because of "Covid" and "Supply Chain Issues."

Everything is over priced "because of Coviid."

Fuck these price gougers.

by Anonymousreply 14December 3, 2023 5:55 PM

R7 Yes the “fur baby” culture.

It’s disgusting. People think I hate animals, I don’t. I hate people who “love” animals.

by Anonymousreply 15December 3, 2023 6:10 PM

I’m curious as to why there is a veterinarian shortage after COVID. There was a vet close to my home that was a bustling practice which also was an emergency hospital open 24/7, boarded animals and had a transport alliance with a wild animal rescue/rehab group. This practice was open for many years.

It is no longer an emergency hospital and is turning away people. They would send them to a place 45 mins away and if you were lucky you’d be seen. Some people waited days and their pets died. No more wildlife help at all.

When my dog was having a seizure and a possible injured leg, I called 5 local vets and no one would see him— after first trying this place and was turned away. It was madness.

Now care is like EVERYTHING else: corporate rules, corporate run. Prices jacked up with fewer options, fewer vets, worse care.

Where did the caring, responsible vets and their offices go? Why would COVID affect this? Why a shortage if your calling was to be a vet? Other businesses have reopened.

This COVID aftermath is really bizarre. Nothing is running optimally anymore. Stores look like Soviet Russia, no customer service, stuff is just gone, never to return to its former glory.

by Anonymousreply 16December 3, 2023 6:47 PM

I wanted to add another thing: this former emergency hospital/vet was so good. One time my cat caught a rat and didn’t kill it but paralyzed its hind legs. I couldn’t put it back into the wild so I put it in a towel lined box and brought the wee thing to this vet. They said they would euthanize it free of charge. That would never happen today. Today they wouldn’t even see me. So I wonder how/why COVID changed so many things for the worse? I don’t get it.

by Anonymousreply 17December 3, 2023 6:58 PM

Pit bulls were the majority in our local shelters a decade ago; now it’s huskies. Beautiful dogs, but needy and high-maintenance. Supposedly, Game of Thrones contributed to the Husky fad.

by Anonymousreply 18December 3, 2023 7:13 PM

Vet practices were consolidated and, in many cases, taken over by venture capitalists looking to maximize profit rather than care for animals. They’d prefer to see fewer patients and charge more.

by Anonymousreply 19December 3, 2023 7:28 PM

See link

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by Anonymousreply 20December 3, 2023 7:30 PM
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