Inflation Feeds a Bay Area Shelter Crisis

By Haley Chelemedos, Staff Writer

// A massive influx of animals crowds local shelters, leaving little room for hope. For many dogs, animal shelters are becoming their outlook of a forever home. 

   As Bay Area animal shelters quickly reach capacity, many blame people who bought “pandemic pets”, or animals that they bought during lockdown; however the rising costs of essential items can make caring for pets difficult for all owners. 

   During the COVID-19 pandemic, animal adoptions surged as people sought companionship amid lockdowns. Despite a temporary increase in adoptions mid-2020, animals have continued to fill Bay Area shelters over the past few months. While some blame people who have returned their “pandemic pet”, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals attests that the vast majority of people who adopted pets during the pandemic still own them.

   “We have an unprecedented number of large dogs (almost 100…) currently available for adoption, and we urgently need homes for these dogs,” Oakland Animal Services (OAS) said in a news report on May 4.

   With a current total of 80 adoptable dogs, about 60 more than other Bay Area shelters, OAS struggles to manage all of their animals. It is not a coincidence that OAS is flooded with large dogs, as they tend to be especially expensive to take care of.

   Sophomore Lily McKinney and her family adopted one dog and two cats, one of the cats during the COVID-19 lockdown. For some, maintaining the commitment of taking care of pets is becoming harder.

   “[Taking care of a pet] can be pretty expensive with food, toys for dogs, and cat litter. Also, there is a big time commitment for dogs because they need exercise and they need to interact with humans a lot,” McKinney said. 

   Bay Area residents find themselves struggling financially considering the highest inflation rate in 40 years, causing many to spend extra time in the office. Leaving pets at home without attention or proper supervision is detrimental to their health. 

   “When we were younger we could not leave our dog alone, because he would start drooling all over the floor and start clawing at the crate because he missed us…We needed to make sure that someone could check in so that we were not away from him for more than four hours,” sophomore Dulci Vail said.

   Although Vail was able to make a lifestyle change to compensate, in some situations, the responsibilities that come with owning a pet as such are too difficult to fulfill.

   “I have two dogs and it costs me thousands and thousands of dollars every year to make sure they are fed and vetted. It is an expense for sure…they have to have daily walks and they have to be cared for and groomed…” former Animal Rescue Manager Betsy Richards said. 

   Pets can not thrive in isolated environments or with lack of resources, forcing owners to surrender their pets to animal shelters out of concern for their health. Shelters are not always the only option, though.

   “I had a cat, and just taking care of him with my family was just too much for all of us. We all had different schedules, and we weren’t always there with [him]. We could not figure out how to feed it because we had different commitments. I ended up having to give the cat to one of my friends,” sophomore Fiona Roux said.

    Despite her need to surrender the pet, Roux was able to keep the cat out of a shelter, which supports animals both inside and outside of already-full shelters. There are other ways people can help their local shelters, as well. Richards had a very positive experience with fostering, and recommends it to anyone that is able to in order to help shelters who currently struggle.

   “We loved fostering, it is such a huge part of our life. My son started when he was seven years old and fostered hundreds of puppies with us, and now we still have dogs. We are people in the dog community and we love it… It definitely takes a commitment, it takes time and effort and money, but it is well worth it in the end. I would never trade anything for my animals,” Richards said.

Community members stress that, even if one is not able to adopt a pet from a local shelter, they can still help the animals who live there.

“You can donate and volunteer. Not only donate money, but toys and food for the animals. It is always appreciated by the shelter workers especially in these hard times,” McKinney said.

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