Pet adoption rates skyrocketed in the early months of the pandemic when adults and students were working remotely at home to train, acclimatize, and appreciate a new dog or cat.
Pets are still being adopted by people, but pets are also being delivered to shelters as people return to work and deal with rising prices for everything from pet food to gasoline.
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“The reasons we’re hearing are because people don’t have time for a pet anymore, can’t afford it, or need to get a second job,” said Ruth Thompson, founder and director of ANNA Shelter.
Thompson said the orphanage, located at 1555 E. 10th St. In Erie, he receives 15 to 20 calls a day from owners inquiring about their pets’ delivery, and receives about 40 animals each week.
Nicole Lyon, executive director of the Erie Humane Society at 2433 Zimmerly Road, said rising costs are causing most of the give-ups. Lyon said the sanctuary has taken in 130 animals since January, up 15%.
“From what we’re seeing, it’s not because people are back at work in the office, but because they’re suffering economically,” Leon said. “We’ve had a huge influx of animals from people who say they can’t afford veterinary care and pet food and are having a hard time even feeding themselves.”
Recent surrenders have included a Cane Corso that weighs just 57 pounds.
“That’s very, very gentle for this type of dog,” Leon said. “The family could not afford to take care of him.”
Rising costs fuel ‘difficult choices’
Selling pet food prices are up 5.4% since December 2019, according to tracking by Pet Age, a magazine that specializes in the pet industry.
Higher costs have also increased the price of veterinary care. Glenwood Pet Hospital in Millcreek emailed customers in June to say it had delayed raising prices for several months but was no longer able to absorb all of the increased costs.
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“As we’re sure you’re aware, the market is constantly changing, and these changes have caused price increases in the cost of goods, hiring, and maintaining the high-quality care we provide to our patients,” Glenwood said in the email. The never-ending wave of inflation has hit us, forcing us to raise our prices.
The increasing cost of pet care has not occurred in a vacuum. Pet owners, like others, pay more for just about everything, including groceries and gasoline.
Prices of food or groceries at home rose more than 12% in the twelve months ending in June, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was the largest 12-month increase since April 1979.
Gasoline prices are up nearly 60%, the largest 12-month increase since March 1980.
“Unfortunately, we hear that with inflation rising, families are being forced to make tough choices,” said Lyon, of the Humane Society.
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The costs of animal shelters are also rising
Shelters continue to accept pets that owners cannot keep and incur higher costs of caring for them.
“The cost (of food) that we usually buy has gone up by at least 5%,” Leon said. “For a small nonprofit, that’s a lot.”
Utilities and drug costs have also risen.
“Our biggest cost is medication, for everything from upper respiratory infections to skin infections to outpatient surgeries,” said Thompson, of the ANNA shelter. “It’s very expensive, and with the amounts we have to buy, it’s tough.”
Shelters have also had trouble getting some food at times due to supply chain disruptions, Megan Duckett, executive director of Lanc You Care in McCain Township, said.
“It was hard to get canned food for a while when there was a shortage,” Duckett said. “That was tough, especially for kittens.”
Supporters help the three shelters by donating pet food despite the high costs.
“God has blessed us with community support and blessed us with community food,” Thompson said.
While pet surrender has increased, community support has also increased, Duckett said.
“People have been very generous,” she said. “We’ve seen a massive increase in people donating supplies this year.”
Helping owners find alternatives to pet surrender
Shelters work with owners who are considering handing over a pet to help them find less expensive food and care, including care at shelter-operated clinics and health centers. Shelters have even donated or found donors to provide pet food to families in need.
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“(The Erie Humane Society) is here to be a resource and work with families to keep their pets indoors,” Leon said.
“If time they can give a pet is an issue, we try to suggest daily dog care and other things they can do to keep their pet,” Thompson said.
Shelter managers have said that owners who can’t keep their pets are doing the right thing by turning them over to a shelter that takes care of them until they find new homes.
“If someone has absolutely no way of keeping their pet, we will always find a way to take them here or into a nursing home,” Lyon said.
Shelters continue to accept pets
The ANNA Shelter continues because you care about accepting pets and surrendered strays.
“We’ll manage and do somehow,” Duckett said. “We always do.”
“One day I’m kind of animal after animal,” Thompson said. The ANNA shelter houses an average of 70 dogs and 130 cats at a time. “We say, let’s make this happen, and that’s what happens.”
Despite the economy, Duckett said, people are still adopting pets, including older cats and dogs.
“A lot of people are specifically looking for older animals to adopt to give them a good life in the past few years.”