Animal shelters overwhelmed as high cost of living forcing many to give up their pets
Animal shelters are reporting an overwhelming number of surrendered pets this year.
Dean Daubert, chief operations officer at Anderson Humane in South Elgin, Ill., said the shelter has handled 3,000 more pets this year than it did in 2021.
Daubert said he does not buy the widely held belief that a lot of people were too quick to adopt pets during the pandemic and now they are giving them up.
“From what people tell us, the cost of keeping a pet and the refusal of landlords to accept pets are the chief reasons that so many pets are being surrendered," Daubert told The Center Square.
He argues that it is difficult for pet owners to find new housing where pets are welcome.
Daubert would like to see legislation that gives pet owners leverage.
“Until there is legislation that prevents discrimination against people with pets and allows pet owners to have some rights, we will continue to see this,” he said.
When people have to give up their pets, it is often heartbreaking, Daubert said.
Most people give up their pets as a last resort, and some people become ill and can no longer care for their animals. They may split up with a partner and need to downsize.
“It is always a very, very hard decision,” Daubert said.
He suggests starting by letting people know that the pet needs a new home. Friends and neighbors will often take pets that people can no longer care for, if they are asked, Daubert said.
People may not be actively looking for a pet, but when they find out about a friend's pet, they may be delighted to give the pet a home. Anderson Humane's pet surrender process can take as long as three weeks for a space to open up, Daubert said.
Daubert is proud of the screening and the counseling the staff does to make sure pets that are up for adoption go to stable homes. Pets that are surrendered to Anderson are not pets that were adopted from Anderson in the first place, Daubert said.
“We have been flat for the past three years in our return rate,” Daubert said.
He credits the screenings and the variety of training programs Anderson offers for helping people and their new pets learn how to live together. A dog may be reactive when it gets to a new home and that can be scary for people, he said. Many times reactivity can be managed easily with a little training.
“Some animals don’t get off to the best start in life,” Daubert said. “A lot of times a dog is under-socialized as a puppy."
Training helps the dog learn good manners, including not barking at other dogs or jumping up on people. A little training helps the owner and the new pet to bond, Daubert said.
No single breed is surrendered more than another, he said.
“It is definitely not the breed,” Daubert said. “It is the financial impact that is making people surrender their animals.”
Adoption fees at shelters do not cover the medical and operational costs of running the shelters, Daubert said. Shelters need community support, both financial and volunteer.
“Without the help of our many, many dedicated volunteers, we could not provide the outstanding care that we give to our animals,” Daubert said.