Animal shelter workers at Humane Indiana’s Munster Shelter felt a sense of relief over the July 4 holiday in that the dreaded influx of dogs showing off during all the extravagant fireworks displays didn’t seem to materialize.
Northwest Indiana Animal Shelters posted the warning on their social media pages – ‘More pets get lost on July 4th than any other day of the year,’ read the Whiting Animal Shelter, with advice such as “Put them on a leash and walk them in your garden. Don’t leave them unattended. Put locks on gates. If you have people over, confine them to a room so that they don’t get out. Put tags with address and phone number. Write it on the collar if you don’t have a tag. Hopefully, according to his warning, pet owners loved enough their animals to want to protect them.
The Lake County Animal Adoption and Control page posted a similar warning.
“We are reaching out with an important message regarding our admissions and adoptions!” its July 2 announcement read. “It’s a busy time for dogs escaping due to the fireworks. Currently we are at maximum capacity for felines and canines. This is due to the number of strays, animals not claimed (owned) and owner surrenders. With more adoptions, we will be able to open more admissions and help more animals find forever homes.
“Please keep us in mind when looking for a forever pet. An adopted pet not only helps that pet, but allows us to help ingest more pets.
If the consumption of shelters in northwest Indiana did not worsen during the holidays, that was good news, it was also a small comfort. What seems to be happening is more complicated and, in every way, worse. Shelters are seeing an alarming number of surrenders and strays, mostly because inflation and housing have become a struggle for many.
Jessica Petalas, shelter manager for Humane Indiana’s Munster, said their shelter population had “skyrocketed” all summer with the perfect storm of pests and surrenders. Many of the strays have identifying information about their owners, she said, but they have failed to reunite the pets with their people.
But what’s worse, she said, is families having to give up their pets because they can’t afford to keep them anymore, she said. Families forced out of their homes — whether due to foreclosure or a moratorium on evictions — are finding fewer and fewer pet-friendly options.
“It’s the highest consumption in the last decade, and it’s worse for adoptions,” Petalas said. “People abandon their animals because they have to move, and when the rent is much more than a mortgage, you have a crisis.
“It’s really sad, because we would love to be able to keep these families together.”
Humane Indiana used to maintain a website listing pet-friendly accommodations, but it’s increasingly difficult to find places that are, Petalas said. An apartment search website, apartmentguide.com, found three pet-friendly apartment complexes under $1,500 per month, with the lowest starting at $750 per month.
Another site, apartments.com, listed five pet-friendly resorts, with the cheapest rent starting at $950.
Another factor in high shelter populations is that people believe the COVID-19 pandemic is over, or at least subsided enough that they can go out more than they want to stay home and train a puppy, she said.
“All of this is driving adoptions down, and there’s not much we can do about it,” Petalas said. “When people suffer, animals suffer too.”
Still, there still seems to be a demand for pets, Petalas said, especially puppies. While she can vouch for the many she has at the Munster shelter, she said all shelters will have something to suit everyone’s wants and needs.
“We have puppies available all the time. We are a no-kill shelter, so we take puppies from kill shelters,” Petalas said. “There’s something for everyone here that you don’t need to go buy.”
For people struggling with the cost of pet food, there are a few places that can help. Humane Indiana has a pet pantry for anyone who needs help, as do several other shelters, Petalas said. Best Buddies Pet Pantry in Chesterton and St. John Township Food Pantry are other places that can help.
Michelle L. Quinn is a freelance writer for the Post-Tribune.
Anyone wishing to donate to one of the following shelters to help can access these websites for further details:
Humane Indiana: humaneindiana.org
Humane Society of Northwestern Indiana (Gary): humanesocietyofnorthwestindiana.org
Porter County Animal Shelter: portercountyanimalshelter.org
St. John’s Animal Control: stjohn.gov
Griffith Animal Control: griffith.in.gov
Humane Society of Hobart: hshobart.org
Lake County (Crown Point) Animal Control and Adoption: lakecounty.in.gov