Dakin Humane Society: Why there are fewer shelter pets

Only wicked pet

People have always loved having pets, but now it’s harder than ever to find companion animals, especially dogs, here in New England. We hear about shelters in southern states like Texas or Georgia that are overcrowded with animals and may use euthanasia to control their population. So why can’t we […]

People have always loved having pets, but now it’s harder than ever to find companion animals, especially dogs, here in New England. We hear about shelters in southern states like Texas or Georgia that are overcrowded with animals and may use euthanasia to control their population. So why can’t we get more of these pets transported up north to solve both problems?

Unfortunately, we can’t just rely on transports to meet the demand for pets here. New England has been able to curb its pet population in part because people are proud to bring shelter pets into their homes. Another reason is that the pro-spay/neuter message has been successful here. It’s pretty easy for most people in the northeast to get to a veterinarian’s office, but those who live in large rural areas in some southern states might be hours away from the closest spay/neuter provider.

The spay/neuter message is being embraced in more states than before, and that’s affecting where transports go. For example, suppose there is a Texas shelter that has dogs to transport, and they usually send them up to New England. Now there’s a shelter in Virginia that has fewer pets for adoption because more people are spaying/neutering their pets, and they’d like to have those dogs coming from Texas to meet adoption demands. The shelter in Texas would be more inclined to send the dogs to Virginia because it’s a shorter distance, which makes the journey easier for the animals.

Dr. Roger Haston, a recognized world leader in animal welfare through his research and public speaking, has analyzed data on the demand for adoptable pets in New England. He stated that the demand exceeds five times the full capacity of a shelter. That’s a full shelter, multiplied by five. Most New England shelters are not even close to being full and haven’t been for a while.

The message isn’t all doom and gloom, however. While Dakin has seen fewer young, healthy and immediately adoptable animals brought to our doors (and frankly, those types of pets are often rehomed via social media or word of mouth to avoid shelter stays, a move we applaud), we still have wonderful pets who want to bring joy to loving adopters.

More than before, we’re receiving pets who are older and/or have behavioral/medical issues for whom we need resources to treat. We created the Program for Animal Wellness (PAWS) to provide for these animals with complex cases. Our experienced medical and behavioral teams create treatment plans to address each animal’s unique situation and needs.

Several years ago, we reviewed our data to determine that the average cost of care for each pet on the adoption floor was $513. Last year we recalculated those stats and that figure is now $705. While the number of animals in need of placement has declined, the level of care they need has increased.

The world of animal welfare is shifting, and Dakin is constantly evolving to continuously meet the needs of pets and people in our community. Our efforts support the most vulnerable. A 2019 survey revealed that 16% of the people in the Pioneer Valley are living in poverty, and this includes their pets. That’s why we have focused on several programs and services that provide support to pets already in homes. Our Vaccine Clinic, Clinic PLUS and Spay/Neuter Clinic, as well as our Safety Plan for Animals and Pet Food Aid Program all help animals and their people stay together through wellness care, temporary emergency housing and pet food when families face food instability.

We’ve always believed that people will make good choices for their animals when they have the information and resources they need to do so, and your support makes that happen. We are grateful that you also want to see a kinder community.

Lee Chambers is media relations and development specialist of the Dakin Humane Society. Dakin delivers effective, innovative services to animals in need and the people who care about them.

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