Pet adoptions soared during the height of the pandemic, but now new adoption rates have slowed as life returns to normal. There has been widespread reporting that many people have returned pets to shelters as they find that they are unable to care for them due to returning to in-person work and increased social activities. However, NPR reports that the data doesn’t support this. Instead, over-crowding is primarily due to capacity constraints.
Overcrowding has put a significant strain on County-run animal shelters and adoption centers. In a tweet last week, Baltimore County stated that its shelter was at capacity and unable to accept additional animals. Other counties are reporting similar over-crowding at their shelters.
One factor impacting capacity restraints at shelters is human capital. Many county-run shelters rely heavily on volunteers to help manage the workload for animals in their care. Volunteerism at shelters declined during the pandemic due to a variety of factors such as concerns about contracting COVID-19 and increased responsibilities for child care at home.
Capacity is further impacted by a decline in funding. Many shelters rely heavily on fundraising, and a year of being unable to host events has negatively impacted budgets. This makes it difficult to hire staff to offset the decline in volunteers.
Counties may want to consider issuing a call for volunteers to help at their local shelters. According to the NPR report, increasing the number of volunteers is one of the most important ways to address over-crowding in shelters.