Sunday 7 January 2024

Adoption rates have declined from US animal shelters due to increased living costs

I've been doing some research on animal shelters and adoption rates in the United States. Euthanasia rates are linked to adoption rates. The picture is a little confusing but overall it would appear that fewer people are adopting animals from shelters than they were before the pandemic. There are added complications. Some shelters have not opened as they usually would have, which was the norm before the pandemic, which puts a barrier between the adopter and the shelter. This slows adoption rates.

Adoption rates have declined from animal shelters due to increased living costs in the US
Adoption rates have declined from animal shelters due to increased living costs in the US. Image: MikeB

Also, because there was a surge in adoptions during the pandemic, the marketplace encouraged people to go into dog and cat breeding. Now that purchases of dogs and cats has decreased, it's left breeders with a surplus of animals. My guess is that some of these animals are finding their way to animal shelters.

Some animal shelters are overcrowded with some overcrowded quite dramatically. One website says that animal shelters in America are 'broken'. Some are under extreme pressure being oversubscribed at about double their normal capacity. There aren't enough adopters because, as mentioned, people are more cautious in America and elsewhere about the cost of cat and dog caregiving which has climbed with inflation to a point where it becomes untenable for many people in the lower echelons of earning capacity.

Nathan Winograd, in his newsletter to me, says that 753,022 animals were adopted in America during the 2023 Home for the Holidays campaign. That's good news he says but it's almost "half a million below prior year totals because fewer shelters are participating and others are refusing to fully open post-pandemic, offering fewer adoption hours and increasing bureaucratic obstacles, such as requiring an appointment before visiting. As a result, they are killing more animals, despite fewer intakes."

The problem is not the number of intakes to shelters. These have remained fairly stable on my understanding of the situation. It is a reduction in people prepared to adopt shelter animals which is the cause of what might be described as a growing crisis at some shelters.

The Colleton County Animal Shelter in Walterboro, South Carolina would seem to be a typical example.  Laura Clark works there and she says that they have 65 permanent dog kennels. Sixty are available because they like to keep five open at all times for new dogs. At the moment they have 195 dogs in their care. Of those, 141, are at the shelter full-time. They are at more than double their capacity.

Clark says that when she first started working at the shelter they took in over 3,000 pets per year which is come down to around 2,000. But the problem as mentioned is adoptions for the reasons stated. 

Also, there might have been a backlash to unethical breeding. During Covid-19 there was a lot of unethical breeding; breeders producing unhealthy dogs which has been discussed a lot on the Internet. This educated people about the problem. They are now more cautious. This has possibly resulted in less purchases of dogs and therefore reduced the intake as mentioned at shelters.

But post-pandemic attitudes have changed about dog adoption. I presume by the way that the same applies to cats. Most of the discussion on this topic is about dogs which is why I have referred to them in this article.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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