While COVID-19 has brought much despair in the past 18 months, the pandemic was a boon for the human-animal bond. Pet adoption skyrocketed as people spent more time at home. About 1 in 5 homes chose to adopt.
Now the pendulum is swinging back. Pet shelters are reporting overcrowding as our economic recovery lags. Tragically, for shelters on tight budgets, overcrowding results in some pets being put down.
Consider it a cry–or meow or bark–for help.
The recent economic downturn reduced the number of families who can afford to feed and care for an animal. At the same time, inflation has driven up the cost of pet food and other supplies in recent months. Consequently, shelters have reported an uptick in the number of pets families are releasing into their care.
In New York City, Animal Care Centers received 1,400 pets in June, nearly double the amount they received in February. Others throughout the country report similar trends, leaving overwhelmed shelters bursting at the seams. Shelters are struggling to find staff. Nearly nine in 10 pet shelters are short-staffed, according to a recent survey from Best Friends Animal Society.
So, what can be done to help? Donating to a local shelter is the most effective way to alleviate stress.
Local shelters do the real work of protecting animals, yet rarely receive aid from nationwide animal organizations, like the Humane Society for the United States. HSUS collects millions each year but it doesn’t run shelters and rarely provides local financial aid, despite having more than $30 million parked in offshore accounts.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) operates similarly. They run one shelter in New York City. A recent investigation from CBS News found that less than half of a $19 donation to ASPCA went toward direct help for animals. Much of the rest went toward fundraising, mailings, overhead, and paying for CEO Matt Bershadker’s $840,000 salary.
By donating directly to a local shelter, donors can guarantee that their money is helping pets, not executives.
There are also ways to help without cutting a check. Volunteering can help increase the staff’s bandwidth. Even an hour a week could free up staff to attend to other needs.
While stores and restaurants can close for a day to accommodate a staffing shortage, shelters don’t have that option. There are mouths to feed and kennels to clean.