You may have heard news sources claiming that Arizona shelters are seeing an increase in pet surrenders due to people going back to work following the aftermath of the COVID pandemic. Approximately 1 in 5 households acquired a cat or dog since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. But as COVID restrictions lifted and businesses reopened, animal shelters reported an increase in animal surrender.
The uptick in the number of dogs entering Valley shelters made us wonder, are people actually surrendering their new furry members of the family because they can leave the house? Or is it because of barriers like the ongoing housing crisis, breed restrictions, or the thousands of Arizona workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic and are facing financial hardship?
As it turns out, our suspicions were correct. It is the typical amount of stray pets combined with an increased number of owner-surrendered pets as a result of job, income, and housing loss and not adoption returns that are crowding shelters in Maricopa County.
This is validated by a recent survey conducted by the ASPCA, a staggering 87% of pet owners shared that they are NOT considering rehoming the animal they brought into their homes during the pandemic.
Here at The Arizona Pet Project, our organization works closely with the families that bring their animals to the shelter. What news reports are also missing is the devastating reality that most families are bringing their beloved pets to the shelter because they want to do what’s best for the animal. For example, if the pet is sick or injured and they can’t afford veterinary care. Or, if the family loses their home and they don’t want the pet suffering on the hot streets. They are placing the pet first, even when it breaks their heart.
Our most vulnerable residents including veterans, the elderly, domestic violence victims, and the homeless are disproportionately affected. It’s often these at-risk families who rely most on the love, companionship, and emotional healing their pet brings them. With our clients, we’ve witnessed firsthand how transformative the human-animal bond can be.
So, why do these residents surrender their pets? Because they believe they do not have any other option.
And if media and communities are focused on the wrong problem, they aren’t focused on the correct solutions.
When you support The Arizona Pet Project, you give these families and their pets a second chance–a chance to stay together. When you support our organization and life-changing programs like our shelter intervention program, you extend a helping hand to these families when they are faced with a crisis. We’ve accomplished so much since the start of the pandemic last year, but there is more work to be done. Thank you for your commitment to supporting Arizona families and their pets when they need it most!
The next time you see one of those news articles talking about an increase in shelter intake, join us in redirecting attention to how we can help these families and keep their beloved cats and dogs in their time of need (and how to keep them home with the families that love them!)
If you or someone you know is looking for more information about Arizona housing resources, visit https://www.azhousingcoalition.org/needhelp.html Also, if you know someone who needs temporary fostering, visit https://pethousinghelpaz.org/