Declining adoptions in 2021, coupled with staff shortages and reduced operations are overwhelming shelters
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 adoptions 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 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.
Due to understaffing, most organizations say staff are more stressed than usual. Many are unable to carry out regular operations such a hosting major adoption events, supplying enough veterinary support, maintaining regular hours with public access, and/or providing as much sufficient adoption/foster support and animal care as they would like.
To raise awareness about the urgency to support shelters, Best Friends has launched a campaign nationwide encouraging people to adopt. The campaign will include traditional media, advertisements, and a robust digital effort. The primary target of the campaign will be the states most in need, including California, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama (which combined make up 50 percent of the dogs and cats still being killed in the nation), Illinois, and Oklahoma.
“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.”
About Best Friends Animal Society
Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters from an estimated 17 million per year to about 347,000. Best Friends runs lifesaving programs all across the country, as well as the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary. Working collaboratively with a network of more than 3,300 animal welfare and shelter partners, and community members nationwide, Best Friends is working to Save Them All®. For more information, visit bestfriends.org.