Some animal shelters in the valley are seeing an increase in the number of owners who abandon their pets

Pet shelters in Nevada and across the country saw record adoptions last year, with many Americans seeking new companions to keep them company during stay-at-home orders and quarantines.

Now, as COVID-19 restrictions ease and more Americans get vaccinated, some animal shelters, including at least two in the Las Vegas Valley, say they are seeing an increase in the number of owners deciding to make their four-legged friends.

Some shelters across the country said it was because some new pet owners were returning to their offices or their pre-pandemic lifestyle.

But that’s not necessarily what happens in the valley, according to several local animal shelters. Reasons for giving up an animal aren’t as straightforward as an owner returning to the office, they say.

“I don’t think it’s as easy as people, having recently adopted animals, and now turning them over because they’re going back to work,” said Francesca Fulciniti, executive director of Heaven Can Wait Animal Society. “We haven’t really seen calls from people saying, ‘I adopted an animal last year, I’m going back to work so I want to give up on this animal.’ It’s a little more complicated than that.

Economic difficulties, transition

An official at an animal shelter, Hearts Alive Village, which helps save dogs and cats from an overcrowded shelter system, said animal abandonment has increased in recent months.

“We have certainly seen an increase in surrenders and requests for postponement in recent months,” said spokesperson Sheryl Green. In most situations, the animals come from loving families who have been forced to move to animal-restricted areas, settle with other family members, or leave the state, Green said.

“Unfortunately, many of these pet owners became homeless and made the difficult decision to abandon their pet in the best interest of the animal,” she said.

Animal shelters also often maintain rigorous application processes aimed at reducing impulsive decisions that could lead to remorse down the road, to ensure that a pet is a good fit for a household and that there is a plan. for what life looks like after COVID-19. .

Hearts Alive Village also has in its adoption contract that if an adopter can no longer care for their animals, they must bring them back to the organization.

“That being said, we haven’t seen an increase in the number of returning animals that have been adopted by our organization,” Green added.

Fulciniti, of the Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, said pet abandonment has increased in recent weeks. At the start of the year, the shelter was only receiving a handful of transfers per month.

“This week alone we have probably received four or five calls from families seeking to return their animals,” Fulciniti told the Review-Journal. “He went from a few calls a month at the start of the year to four to five a week in the last month.”

“It’s unusual considering what we’ve seen over the past year,” added Fulciniti.

The pets handed over were usually adopted by other organizations or came from out of state.

“Today we had a family moving out of state and they couldn’t take their dog with them. We’ve had calls from people selling their homes and moving in with their families, and they can’t bring their pets, ”Fulciniti said.

Not all shelters see peaks of surrender or return

In many cases, bringing an animal to the shelter is the last resort. Many are trying to make things work.

“It seems people are trying more to do good with their pets, but because things are in such a state of transition right now for so many families, it means the situation for animals is changing as well,” he said. she declared.

Another local shelter, The Animal Foundation, said it had not seen a peak of abandoned animals.

“Last year was an anomaly, and we’re actually below the five-year average from January through April,” Kelsey Pizzi, spokesperson for The Animal Foundation, wrote in an email. “When it comes to adoption returns, we’ve only seen a slight increase.”

Adoption returns edged up slightly, by around 1.6%, over the same period last year, Pizzi said.

Resources for families

There are some resources available to animal adopters before they give up on their furry friends.

Fulciniti said that many organizations, including the Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, offer essential veterinary services such as spaying, neutering and vaccinations – which are primarily preventative measures that keep animals healthier.

Many shelters offer similar services at low cost for adopters. Some organizations are also working to make sure families are aware of the valley’s pet food banks if a family needs help.

“There are different animal welfare nonprofits around town that aim to keep animals in homes, so these challenges of economic hardship are not the reasons people feel they have to give up. their animals, ”Fulciniti said.

Contact Jonathan Ng at [email protected] To pursue @ByJonathanNg on Twitter.

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