As the holiday season comes to a close and families take down holiday decor, shelters nationwide are filled with their own guests — actually they’re filled to capacity with surrendered pets.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, defines surrendered animals as animals whose owners can no longer care for them due to financial, behavioral or other unforeseen barriers.
After the holiday season, shelters experience an influx of animals surrendered to their shelter — more than any other time of the year, animal rescue experts say.
Sadly, many of these pets don’t make it to forever homes, something that local animal lovers and advocates are working hard to change. In the United States alone, approximately 1.5 million animals are euthanized each year, including 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats, according to data collected by Shelter Animals Count. And of the animals brought to a shelter, 20% of dogs and 27% of cats are euthanized, according to Shelter Animals Count data.
“We are an open-admission facility and we accept over 60,000 animals a year, so when space is an issue, we sometimes have to make a difficult decision,” said Allison Cardona, deputy director at the Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control. “In times like this, we reach out to the community to help us by fostering or adopting so we don’t have to euthanize the animal.”
Mardi Rivetti, founder of Rescues on the Runway, sees annually how this time of year puts a huge burden on animal shelters.
Rivetti runs her own local animal rescue that adopts out hundreds of pets each year. With her rescue, she practices a very extensive adoption application process to ensure that the pet is going into the best possible home.
“Adopting rates are high for puppies during the holidays, but not for older dogs,” said Rivetti.
During the holiday season, pets, especially puppies and kittens, are often given away as gifts. Dani Caouette, owner of Shelter Hope Santa Clarita, believes this contributes to the rise of surrendered pets.
“When a person receives a pet as a gift, they were not part of the selection process,” said Caouette. “Often times, pets are chosen because of their cute looks, but no thought is taken to do proper research.”
Pets are a responsibility and a choice that an owner should make, not a choice made for them, she noted.
Getting a pet is a good amount of work and requires lots of research and preparation. For example, as cute as Husky puppy may seem, someone may not have the time or resources to care for them, Caouette says.
Some pets, like large dogs, require walks daily, while others, like cats, require less activity. Finding a pet that matches the owner’s lifestyle is key in finding the perfect pet for the home.
“Don’t bring home a puppy just because it’s cute,” said Caouette. “It is a life-long commitment.”
When someone adopts a pet, they’re often opting into about a 10-plus year commitment. The reality is, there are pet owners who initially adopt a pet because it’s cute and they don’t consider other factors.
Rather than gifting someone a pet, consider a different option like creating an “adoption kit.”
“Instead of bringing home an animal right away, consider putting together and wrapping an adoption kit,” an American Humane Society news release suggests. “Fill a box with toys, a bed, leash, collar, food, treats and a gift certificate for adoption fees at your local shelter.”
This allows owners the chance to do their homework and consider what pet would be best for them.
At Shelter Hope Santa Clarita, they have experienced pet surrenders first hand at their rescue. When they receive pets, they take them and find a suitable home for them. They match pet needs with humans to find the perfect home.
For those who are considering to surrender a pet, Caouette offers some solutions and encourages others to consider their options.
“Why is there a need to surrender?” asked Caouette. “Maybe it’s an issue where a trainer could help or working with a dog walking service to help get proper exercise for the pet. If you decide you must surrender your pet, you should work with a reputable rescue to help safely rehome your pet into the best fit for the pet.”
Other organizations like Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control, also help make it so owners have more options other than surrendering their animals.
“The biggest threat to a pet owner giving up their pet, is the lack of funds for veterinary and complications with housing,” said Cardona, from Animal Care and Control. “We work with organizations to provide low-cost and free resources to help pet owners.”
With all the options and services available to the community, surrendering a pet can now be the last alternative rather than the quick solution.