In 2020, animal shelters emptied as people rushed to adopt pandemic pets. However, this situation has changed for the worse.
Now many shelters are filled to the brim.
“We’ve seen this disturbing pendulum shift of adoptions decrease… abandonments increase and shelter populations reach unmanageable levels,” said Dr. Julie Levy, professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida.
Researchers at the University of Florida, including Dr. Levy, have identified one reason: Access to spaying and sterilization surgeries is limited.
They had heard complaints throughout the pandemic, she said. Some were from homeowners about increasing wait times for procedures. Others had more serious concerns.
“The shelters were unable to have the animals they adopted spayed and neutered in a timely manner. Programs focused on trapping and neutering free-roaming community cats did not have access to it. And we were starting to go through several kitten seasons without adequate access to surgery,” she said.
This prompted Dr. Levy and his colleagues to examine where and how many of these procedures were performed. Their results were published this week in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.
The researchers looked at data from 212 clinics nationwide (all of which used the same cloud-based computer software), which together neutered or neutered more than one million animals in 2019.
But that number has dropped by around 10% over the past two years, translating to 190,818 fewer surgeries being performed.
Applied nationwide, this suggests that millions of cats and dogs have gone without.
“Not only have (clinics) missed nearly three million surgeries in the past two years, they’re not even doing as well as they were three years ago,” Levy said.
Closures have obviously affected these numbers, but there have also been shortages of vets and technicians. Levy said it’s an industry-wide problem.
While the researchers found that each region had roughly the same rate of decline in sterilization procedures, it affected the south and southwest the most. Levy said this is because this region tends to perform surgeries on more animals overall.
Anecdotally, she’s heard that more and more people with housing issues are also abandoning their pets, but it’s hard to say how well any single factor is filling shelters.
Levy implores animal lovers to offer help at shelters and to adopt or foster wherever they can.
She hopes more communities will also focus on keeping pets with families and offering support, so dogs, cats and other critters don’t end up caged or euthanized.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Simone Guerios, noted in a Press release that the increase in access to spaying and sterilization over the past 50 years “is the single most important driver for reducing pet overpopulation and euthanasia in animal shelters.”
“Increasing subsidized access to sterilization has helped euthanize pets in the United States from approximately 13.5 million in 1973 to 1.5 million in 2019,” he said. she declared.
But now, for the first time in decades, Levy said we are seeing that trend reversing.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in the Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations throughout the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the public broadcasting company.
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