‘Animal Shelters’ Are Warning Of An Impending Disaster And Urging Americans To Lend A Hand

Animal shelters are warning of an impending disaster and urging Americans to help.

As the coronavirus pandemic enters its third year, a “perfect storm of events” has increased strain on already overburdened U.S. shelters.

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When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, animal shelters around the country were forced to close their doors, Americans responded by adopting and fostering pets.

As we enter the third year of the pandemic, a fresh crisis looms, and rescuers are hopeful that Americans will once again come up to help.

According to Best Friends Animal Society, adoptions have slowed, and there are 100,000 more dogs and cats in shelters than this time last year, putting them at risk of slaughter. In a study conducted last summer, the group discovered that 87 percent of shelters assessed were understaffed, with the omicron version exacerbating the problem.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, animal shelters around the country were forced to close their doors, Americans responded by adopting and fostering pets.

As we enter the third year of the pandemic, a fresh crisis looms, and rescuers are hopeful that Americans will once again come up to help.

According to Best Friends Animal Society, adoptions have slowed, and there are 100,000 more dogs and cats in shelters than this time last year, putting them at risk of slaughter. In a study conducted last summer, the group discovered that 87 percent of shelters assessed were understaffed, with the omicron version exacerbating the problem.

The public can help in two ways: by removing pets from shelters using traditional methods such as fostering, adoption, volunteering, and giving – and by preventing pets from entering shelters in the first place.

Instead of calling animal control or a shelter if we notice a dog running loose, we can take them to a veterinarian who will scan for a microchip and contact the owner (assuming there is no tag with a phone number to begin with). Alternatively, we can keep them in our yard and post notices around the neighborhood or on the Nextdoor local social networking site.

“You can usually get pets back the same day they’re lost, so it’s not a huge deal,” Hassen added. “However, it’s a critical one because 60 percent of animals entering shelters are lost or stray, and only around 15 percent of those are adopted.”

If a family can no longer retain a pet, she recommends finding the animal a new home rather than giving it to a shelter, where there is no way of knowing whether the pet will live or die.

People wishing to rehome their pets can use platforms like Rehome, Home to Home, and Get Your Pet for free.

According to Holly Sizemore, chief mission officer of Best Friends Animal Society, if a family can’t afford to pay the charge to rescue a lost pet from a shelter, the staff will typically lower or waive fees to assist keep the pet in their home.

Courtesy The Best Friends Animal Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping

Fostering will be crucial in weathering this crisis and supporting shelters in the long run, according to Hassen. She hopes that shelters will increase the number of foster coordinators who connect volunteers with foster pets to meet this need. She cites Atlanta’s LifeLine Animal Project’s successful fostering initiatives, which will place over 7,200 pets in foster homes by 2020.

“I have a lot of anxiety, but I also believe we can solve this,” she remarked. “As a result, I don’t feel despairing; rather, I’m anxious.”

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Volunteers who temporarily foster pets while they wait for their forever homes free up room at shelters and give the animals a respite from being in a cage. The Best Friends Animal Society provided this image.

Fostering has always been a pillar of the Atlanta-based nonprofit LifeLine Animal Project’s lifesaving efforts, but the pandemic took it to the next level, according to Heather Friedman, chief marketing officer for the Atlanta-based nonprofit LifeLine Animal Project, which manages two county shelters and a private shelter (among other services).

In 2019, 32 percent of LifeLine’s shelter residents were placed in foster families; by 2020, that number had risen to 57 percent. According to Friedman, the number of shelter pets in foster homes dropped to 44% in 2021, but the organization intends to get it back to at least 50% and keep it there.

“The increase in the number of foster homes over the past two years can be attributed in part to a shift to work from home arrangements in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic and the willingness of an amazing community of pet lovers to respond to our calls for help,” she said in an email to TODAY.

Friedman believes that temporarily fostering pets before adoption benefits both the shelters and the animals.

“There is no place like home when it comes to a pet’s habitat,” she stated. “Once they’re in a home where they can unwind and let their personalities shine, we see such a difference in shelter pets.”

Lily, an 11-year-old pit bull, was at a California shelter for nearly 1,000 days before Chloe Lee learned of her suffering and offered to foster her. Lily did well in her new home and was adopted a month later in February. “I couldn’t be happier,” Lee said in an email to TODAY. Courtesy Chloe Lee is a model and actress.

Best Friends Animal Society created a “kitten season campaign” in honor of this year’s kitten season to raise awareness of not just the need for kitten fosters, but also the joy they can offer.

The organization teamed together with Halle Berry and Caesars Sportsbook to develop a commercial showcasing Berry dressed as Cleopatra and smiling at the antics of beautiful kittens frolicking on the floor around her, as watchers of this year’s “Puppy Bowl” will definitely know. “For real,” she advises, “foster a kitty.”

Kitten fostering, according to Holly Sizemore, chief mission officer at Best Friends, is “hilarious” and a joyful method to save lives — and vital, because two cats are murdered for every shelter dog.

According to Sizemore, caring for community cats (previously known as “feral”) through shelter or rescue organization trap-neuter-return programs is another effective approach to help.
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“There has been a noticeable reduction in the number of cats entering shelters and a considerable improvement in cat save rates in communities with trap-neuter-return programs,” she told TODAY. “There are several organizations who want to assist you in humanely trapping cats and neutering and vaccinating them so that they can live their life outside without reproducing.”

Warm weather ushers in “kitten season,” when animal shelters are inundated with kittens in need of foster homes. The Best Friends Animal Society provided this image.

When visiting shelters, she hopes that individuals considering adopting pets keep an open mind about the size or breed they desire, and that they appreciate that shelters are understaffed — and that many workers are fatigued trying to keep up with the pandemic’s continual problems.

So, if a shelter doesn’t contact back within a few days regarding a potential adoption, she advised, be patient and don’t give up – call again.

According to Sizemore, animal lovers can help shelters and pets by encouraging loved ones to adopt from a local shelter.

“I think now is the moment for folks who have never had a pet to consider getting one,” she added. “They bring the type of affection, support, and unconditional love that you can’t really find anyplace else.”

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