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Local animal shelters encouraging pet adoptions to limit overcrowding

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Posted at 4:09 PM, Feb 01, 2023

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), one in five households adopted a pet during the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent months, however, local animal shelters say they have seen that trend slow down significantly.

Pet experts at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo, as well as with the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter in Santa Maria, say a number of factors ranging from inflated costs of living to impacts of the pandemic have contributed to a decline in pet adoptions and overcrowding at the shelters.

"Unfortunately, too many animals coming in and not enough homes so we got to work extra hard. Yes, shelters are full. We need people to come in to adopt," said Robin Coleman, Woods Humane Society's Community Engagement Manager.

Meanwhile, Sarah Aguilar, Director of Animal Services for Santa Barbara County, says since November, their count of sheltered pets is going up an average of eight animals every day.

"Families are experiencing increased costs in living; utilities are doubling sometimes tripling for some people unexpectedly. And so, when animals experience a medical emergency, families often can’t afford that," Aguilar told KSBY.

Both Aguilar and Coleman say as people have gotten back to their normal lives after staying at home throughout the pandemic, many underestimated the responsibilities of pet ownership, resulting in overcrowded shelters.

"The shelters are comfortable housing about 90 dogs across the two facilities and we have regularly since November between 100 and 110, and it is really sort of our maximum that we can care for safely," Aguilar said.

"A lot of our spay and neuter programs throughout the nation got put on pause so we are seeing a lot of young animals ending up in shelters, staying a little bit longer than they used to," Coleman added.

In an effort to clear their shelter, Coleman says adoption fees at Woods have been reduced to $14 from February 1 through Valentine's Day. The normal adoption fee is about $150 for adult dogs.

"If you spend a little bit less on the adoption fee that puts a little bit more money in your pocket for a vet visit or a bag of food or a nice comfy bed for an old guy like this, so anything we can do. We are all about making adoption easy and accessible," she said.

Aguilar adds that if you are not in a position to permanently bring home a new pet, fostering them is another option.

"With fostering, we are providing all the supplies, the food, the medical care. We are just asking people to open their hearts and homes to care for a pet temporarily," Aguilar said.

She adds that the damages caused by the area's recent storms may have also played a part in increasing the number of sheltered animals. Aguilar says they are looking to reduce their count by 20 pets to get back to a comfortable level.