SACRAMENTO, Calif., August 8, 2018 – Wildfires, animal hoarding cases, and a seasonal increase in stray kittens is placing California’s already-overburdened shelters in crisis mode. To ensure that the shelters can find homes for all the adoptable animals in their care, they are asking for help from the public.
“Summer is always a busy time for animal shelters, particularly because it’s the height of kitten season” explained Erica Hughes, Executive Director of the California Animal Welfare Association, an organization that advocates for California’s animal shelters. “However, California’s recent fires, including Northern California’s Mendocino Complex and Carr fires, are pushing shelters past their limits. And, if the fires continue to spread, the situation will become even more dire. The shelters simply don’t have the space to safely house all the animals coming through their doors. Many shelters are running adoption specials and posting urgent pleas on social media. But, they need more help from the public than they are getting.”
Another reason for shelter overcrowding has been a surge in the number of hoarding cases. The LA City shelter recently recued 300 animals in three separate hoarding cases, pushing all six of its shelters to maximum capacity. “We are used to hoarding cases. However, they are usually more spread out,” said Brenda Barnette, General Manager of LA Animal Services. “We always encourage people to adopt and foster shelter animals as well as donate supplies. But, during times like this, we need even more help.” Ms. Barnette also emphasizes the importance of spaying and neutering. “We strongly urge people to spay and neuter their pets. In LA City, we have free and discount spay and neuter vouchers for all city residents for dogs, cats, and rabbits. For people outside of LA, check with your local animal shelters to see if they have similar programs.”
“Our shelters are drowning” said Beth Ward, Director of Contra Costa Animal Services. “The increase in intake is largely attributed to the influx of kittens coming into our shelter during kitten season and stray dogs that escape during fireworks, summer parties and while families are on vacation. However, in Contra Costa County the fundamental challenge is a lack of resources to support low cost or free spay/neuter services for pets and the lack of resources to provide opportunities for public education around responsible pet ownership.”
Ms. Ward also emphasized the importance of viewing shelter overpopulation as a community problem. “We have families that want to do the right thing. They love their pets and want to properly care for them. Unfortunately, resources are often not available or easily accessible; so they give up their pets, let them loose, don’t vaccinate them, and don’t spay/neuter them.”
“The crisis we are currently facing puts an emphasis on finding homes through rescue and reduced or waived fee adoptions,” explained Ms. Ward. “However, that’s not enough. We need our communities to help by always considering adoption as the first and best option and reaching out to their local shelters as a resource for responsible pet parenting.”
“Summer can always be a particularly challenging time for an open-admission shelter,” explained Phillip Zimmerman, City of Stockton Animal Shelter Manager. “With young children out of school on summer break, families tend to hold off on adopting until summer vacations are over. This, coupled with the high intake of underage and un-weaned kittens, contributes to our shelter’s maximum capacity. We have found that being transparent with the community and asking for help gets animals adopted and rescued. That said, we still need to do something statewide to stop the tens of thousands of unaltered animals entering open-admission shelters throughout our state.”
There are many ways to help your local shelter, including:
Foster. Sign up to be a foster parent to help animals that need a little extra TLC. Shelters like to place animals with special needs, such as those in need of medical care, socialization to overcome shyness, or behavior modification, in foster homes until they are adopted.
Adopt. Shelters are a wonderful place to find your next pet. Most animals end up in shelters through no fault of their own (divorce, family moved, etc.) and are waiting patiently for a new family to take them home.
Volunteer. If you love animals but you are too busy to foster or adopt, spending a few hours at your local shelter each week may be the way to go. Shelter volunteers help with a variety of jobs including dog walking, cat cuddling, and enrichment. They also help behind the scenes with things such as filing paperwork, laundry, and answering the phones. Have a special talent such as graphic design or carpentry? Chances are your local shelter would love for you to share it.
Donate. Funded exclusively by local revenue and licensing fees, public shelters operate on a shoestring budget. The local non-profit SPCAs and humane societies rely exclusively on private funding. Consider making a cash gift or including the shelter in your will or trust. You can also contact your shelter to see if they need of any special items such as blankets, bowls, and other supplies. Many shelters have a wish list on Amazon to make it easy for you to purchase items and have them sent directly to the shelter. Note that California's animal care and control agencies, SPCAs, and humane societies are not directly affiliated with any of the national animal welfare organizations.
Spay and Neuter. One of the most important things people can do is spay and neuter their dogs, cats, and rabbits. It is estimated that an unspayed female cat can produce up to 5,000 descendants after seven years. Unaltered dogs tend to be more likely to run away, display aggression, and get sick, which makes them more likely to end up in a shelter.
Be responsible. Make sure that your dogs (and, in some cities, cats) are vaccinated against rabies and licensed with your local licensing agency as required by law. Also make sure your animals are microchipped (and the information is current) and wearing a collar with an ID tag.
Need help finding your local shelter? Visit our member page.