BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Animal shelters across the country saw an increase in adoptions during the pandemic. But as COVID-19 cases declined, masks came off and the world started to look like it once was, with interest in adopting dipping.
Animal welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society found adoptions were down 3.7 percent in 2021 compared to 2020. Intakes in June 2021 were up 5.9 percent compared to June the previous year.
In a survey commissioned by Best Friends, 59 percent of people considering adopting a pet from a shelter said they were putting the plan on hold because of concerns over returning to the office, taking vacations or starting a new job.
This trend has spilled into 2022, with Best Friends reporting 100,000 more shelter pets being at risk of euthanasia in January 2022 than the previous year. Many shelters across the country are at capacity and no longer accepting owner surrenders.
However, a decrease in interest in adoption may not be the only reason for more homeless pets in shelters.
Best Friends found that a severe decrease in staffing has made shelters unable to carry out regular operations such as hosting major adoption events or maintaining regular hours with public access.
While the best thing someone can do to help shelter pets is to adopt, not everyone is willing or able to make that lifelong commitment.
These are other ways you can help shelter pets find their furever home.
Every dog at the City of Bakersfield Animal Care Center is available to foster, according to Community Engagement Coordinator Nicole Gitzke.
Fostering is crucial because it gets pets out of the shelters before they start deteriorating inside their small kennels. It gives them the opportunity to socialize with people and perhaps other animals in a safe, open environment.
With shelters being stretched so thin, pets don’t get the attention and stimulation they need to thrive. Gitzke said through fostering, fosters get to see how the pet behaves when they are at ease and can report their behaviors and personalities to the shelter to find a compatible family.
“A home environment sets them up for success,” Gitzke said.
Becoming a foster doesn’t cost anything. The shelter will provide you with food, kennels, leashes, vaccinations and veterinary care.
You might even find yourself as a foster fail.
While fostering is not a lifelong commitment, it’s still a commitment nonetheless.
Like many shelters across the country, the Animal Care Center has a program where you can take a shelter pet out of the facility for the day. The program, Cruise and Canines, happens every Wednesday and Friday.
The shelter allows up to 10 dogs to go out at one time. Gitzke said employees will pick out the dogs who need the most attention that day, especially the ones who have been there a long time.
Gitzke encourages anyone coming to take a dog out for the day to bring a friend so they can send a pair of dogs that get along well together. Like fostering, getting out of the shelter, even for a day, lets a dog’s personality shine in ways it doesn’t at the shelter. A timid, terrified and reactive dog at the shelter could become an outgoing and loving dog once they get to the park.
Learning this information will make sure dogs aren’t overlooked and get paired with a household that can meet their needs.
With staffing issues plaguing shelters since the start of the pandemic, shelters are in need of volunteers now more than ever.
The Animal Care Center is reintroducing its volunteer program again after COVID forced it into a hiatus. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, although the center does take 16 and 17-year-olds with parent supervision. Once they get enough volunteers, Gitzke said the shelter will host an orientation to teach volunteers how to handle pets.
Volunteers will be responsible for an array of tasks such as foster coordination and checking in with fosters. But volunteer work isn’t limited to clerical tasks.
Volunteers can play with dogs in the yard or groom and bathe dogs that need extra care.
In the past, college students with the intention of going into veterinary care work with medical staff to tend to animals.
If you can’t find time in your schedule to head to the shelter, you can always consider monetary donations or supplies.
Gitzke said the shelters are always in need of blankets, towels, bedding and durable toys such as Kongs, bones and treats. Supplies make sure pets remain somewhat comfortable and entertained in their kennels.
Don’t have time to drop the supplies off? The Bakersfield SPCA lets you donate money on their website. Make a one-time donation or sponsor a kennel for a year.
You can even support shelters by making your usual Amazon purchases. Shopping through Amazon Smile gives half a percent of all qualifying purchases to your preferred charities. You can also donate requested items to shelters through Amazon.
Spay and Neuter
The easiest thing you can do to help the overpopulation in shelters is to spay and neuter your pets.
Gitzke said Kern County is severely overpopulated, and there is no reason to justify why owners do not spay and neuter their pets.
Fixing household pets will not only curb overpopulation, but it is also in the best interest of the pet’s health. Gitzke said 80 percent of unaltered dogs develop prostate problems in their lifetime.
“If you want your animal to live a long life, spay and neuter your pets,” Gitzke said.