Since the economy's turn for the worse, animal shelters and rescue organizations have been feeling the heat. Municipal shelters are obligated to take in any relinquished animal in their jurisdictions. But with unemployment still high and confidence still fledgling, people tell authorities they're less able to afford pets and more animals are being abandoned.
As a result, public and private shelter kennels have been overwhelmed, and more animals have been put to sleep, pushing 50 percent more yearly, since the economic downturn.
In 2011, nearly 10,000 dogs were euthenized in just L.A. County, according to a report on outcomes of dogs turned over to its animal control agency from Jan. 1 2007 to Dec. 31, 2011. (See attached pdf).
According to Los Angeles Animal Services (a separate agency from the SPCALA) there has been:
- a 46 percent increase in euthanasia, jumping from 6,077 dogs in 2006-2007 to 8,861 in 2010-2011.
- a 39 percent increase in dogs brought to the shelter (in that same time)
That is 2,800 more dogs put down, and Los Angeles' Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also has observed a dramatic spike in shelter admissions.
"We have definitely seen a rise in relinquished pets in direct correlation to the downturn in the economy, said Madeline Bernstein, president of SPCA LA.
"We used to get 30 calls a day for adoptions, but now we get 30 calls a day from people wanting to dump their animals with us," Long Beach Kennel owner Bonnie Sheehan told Patch last year.
It was just this dramatic increase in homeless pets given up or abandoned that apparrently pushed Sheehan to take dire action to avoid the grim reality.
Sheehan, well-known in animal rescue circles for her Hearts for Hounds no-kill shelter, was arrested Tuesday in Tennessee after authorities pulled over a U-Haul truck towing a trailer and discovered 148 dogs and a cat crammed in what police described as deplorable and filthy conditions. She had talked of relocating her shelter dwellers to large acreage she owned in Virginia, which is where she may have been headed before she was jailed, along with a passenger, for aggravated animal endangerment and held on $100,000 bail.
Though there are more abandoned pets, that's not to say abandoned animals aren't adopted. But since it often takes longer to find homes, many more are killed than before the economy was rocked.
In the past, private or nonprofit rescue organizations have been able to help alleviate the pressure, taking pets from the municipal shelters, putting them in temporary or foster homes, and then ultimately placing them with adoptive families. However, the recession has taken a severe toll on the rescues' ability to help.
Rescues are often privately owned non-profits that rely primarily on funding from donations and their own pockets. Due to slow adoptions and financial hardship, Hearts for Hounds has not been able to accept any new animals into their program for months.
Some rescue shelters and organizations have found that with abandonment of and relinquishment of pets, and outreach for help, there have also been an increase in adoptions in some areas. Interestingly, said the L.A.'s spcaLA's president, the dog adoptions have risen as part of downsizing other luxuries.
"The spcaLA adopted out more than 3,000 animals last year and we are on track to match or surpass that number this year," said Bernstein. So while there is a marked rise in people taking their pets to shelters for lack of ability to care for them, the spcaLA has "seen a rise in adoptions. This can be attributed to many things including press about the rise of pets in shelters, Bernstein told Patch:
"People want to help and then adopt a first pet or second pet. Second, people who may have planned elaborate vacations or to purchase a big ticket item, realize they cannot afford it. Instead, they look into pet adoption as something to enrich their families."