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It’s a long, crowded summer at the shelter

by ANDREA NAGEL / Contributing Writer
| July 26, 2023 1:00 AM

Your local animal shelter needs your help. You could say this anywhere in the country right now, and it would likely be true.

In 2023, too many animals are entering shelters and staying there, because adoption rates are not keeping up with intake rates. More dogs are entering animal shelters than leaving them. Typically, pets enter shelters either as strays or because they are surrendered by owners who can no longer care for them. They leave shelters by being reunited with their owners or adopted.

At Better Together Animal Alliance, we are not immune to these challenges. As on a national scale, our adoptions are not keeping pace with intake. Animals are staying in our facility longer. We are taking in more stray dogs, which is also on par with national trends.

In comparing data from this same time last year, we have taken in 27% more stray dogs, but dog adoptions are only up 23% and the number of owners who reclaim strays from us is down 5%.

Nationwide, dog intakes increased 7% from January to March of this year compared to the same period in 2022, but adoption rates haven’t gone up, according to Shelter Animals Count (SAC), which tracks animal shelter data from organizations throughout the United States.

This has contributed to an increase in humane euthanasia at some shelters that don’t have the space or resources to care for the increased number of animals. In the first three months of 2023, compared to the same period in 2021, the euthanasia rate for dogs has nearly doubled at organizations across the country, according to SAC data.

Even for organizations that don’t perform euthanasia for space, such as BTAA, this is bad news. When animals stay in the shelter longer, it limits organizations’ ability to take in and help new animals. Staying in the shelter longer is stressful for animals and makes them more prone to get sick or develop behavioral challenges.

Reversing this trend can’t be on animal shelters alone. Organizations need their communities’ support.

“The crisis shelters are facing does not originate within the shelters,” said Stephanie Filer, executive director of SAC, in a press release. “Shelters need help now more than ever. This is a community problem that requires a community solution.”

Nationally and locally, a lack of affordable housing is a top reason animals end up in shelters, especially now, as programs implemented during the pandemic that helped renters are ending.

As the Bonner County Daily Bee reported in June, rent prices in Idaho have been increasing more than wages. The hourly wage needed to afford rental units in Kootenai and Bonner counties continues to exceed the average wage of renters.

Animal shelters know all too well that housing instability leads to people giving up their pets to shelters. Many homeless shelters don’t allow furry friends. Maybe people facing housing issues move in with family who don’t have the room or desire to take in pets as well. Or if someone does finally find affordable housing, it is not pet-friendly (there is a lack of pet-friendly rental housing as well), and then there is a tough choice: Keep your animal or have a place to live.

This summer, please consider helping Better Together Animal Alliance or another local shelter! Volunteer (for tasks from hands-on shelter work to administrative duties), foster or adopt! Spread the word about adoption and post adoptable animals on your social media.

To learn how to get involved, or if you are struggling to keep your pet and need assistance, go to bettertogetheranimalalliance.org.