100,000 More Pets in Shelters Now Compared to January 2021 Due to Pandemic, Animal Group Finds

Best Friends Animal Society estimates that there are 60,000 more dogs and 40,000 more cats in American shelters awaiting adoption than in January of last year

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Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare organization with hundreds of rescue and shelter partners nationwide, is warning of an animal shelter crisis.

According to a Wednesday release from the nonprofit, there are an estimated 100,000 more pets in the U.S. shelter system right now compared to the same time in 2021.

After consulting with their rescue partners, Best Friends Animal Society found about 60,000 more dogs and 40,000 more cats in American shelters awaiting adoption than in January of last year. They also noted in their release that staffing shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are affecting these numbers.

"The Omicron surge has dramatically increased the strain on shelters by creating staffing shortages that limit shelter hours, decrease in-person volunteers, and reduce adoption events and pet care support," Julie Castle, the CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, said in a statement.

Best Friends Animal Society sent a survey in the summer of 2021 to 150 shelters to get information on how the pandemic affected their work. Eighty-eight percent of the facilities responded that they were experiencing staffing shortages, and 57 percent said they had cut back on adoption programs because of a lack of staff.

According to the nonprofit, staffing issues have become even more prevalent in the past months, with several shelters expressing that they have one staff member covering the roles of multiple employees. Staffing shortages have also forced some rescues to focus just on caring for their animal residents, leaving no workforce for adoption initiatives.

Animal lovers can help shelters navigate this crisis but opening their homes and donating their time. Pet lovers who have space in their life for a rescue pet are encouraged to look into adopting a pet from a local shelter.

"Intake has increased, and adoptions have decreased at shelters, contributing to a challenging environment for lifesaving. Adopting a pet can help to alleviate the stress shelters are experiencing, so if you can, I urge you to adopt now," Castle added in her statement.

She continued: "During a time when many people are experiencing uncertainties, including job changes, housing insecurity, and economic issues, pets can be a source of comfort and companionship. So now especially is the perfect time to add a new pet into your home."

For those who can't adopt a pet right now, volunteering your time to assist a local shelter will also help save the lives of animals in need.

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