Best Friends Animal Society, a leading national animal welfare organization, is urging the public to consider adopting and fostering now due to a decrease in pet adoptions in shelters across the country coupled with a seasonal increase in animal intake, compared to 2020. New data highlights shelter challenges and adoption trends, including a dramatic decrease in staff levels at shelters which is causing reduced operations and a lower capacity for animals.
As a result, many shelters are struggling to keep pace with public demand. “I’ve said it many times before, but now more than ever, we need the public to adopt or foster,” said Best Friends CEO Julie Castle. “If you have been considering getting a new pet, now is the time. The public stepped up during the pandemic, and we need to do it again because countless animals’ lives are at stake if this progress backslides.” Although reports of “pandemic pets” being returned at alarming rates continue, recent data from 24PetWatch on nearly 1,200 U.S. shelters shows that there is not a trend of these particular pets being surrendered, and adoptions are the greater concern. Adoptions are down 3.7% overall this year, and for the month of June, intake was up 5.9% as compared to 2020. This is also the height of kitten season when most cats have their litters and traditionally end up in shelters.
This, combined with pandemic-related challenges, is leading to shelters becoming overwhelmed. In a recent survey commissioned by Best Friends, 59% of general public respondents considering adopting are delaying the process because of returning to the office, taking vacations, starting a new job, and other reasons. In addition, more than half of respondents shared that adoption is the preferred method for acquiring a pet, rather than purchasing from a breeder or pet store.
Best Friends also conducted a survey of more than 150 shelters and animal organizations, of which 88% noted that they were short on staffing. More than half (57%) have cut hours or programs due to short staffing. 41% are operating down more than 25% of normal staffing, and 62% are operating more than 10% below normal staffing levels.
Government shelters and private shelters with government contracts are more impacted than other shelter types. “Shelters, and the animals in them need our help in a big way,” Castle continued. “Pets have been a part of our lives long before the pandemic, and we want to work with families to help them find their best friend while also saving a life.”