Record inflation has caused an overcrowding crisis for North Jersey’s animal shelters with fewer people able to afford their current pets or to adopt a new one.
As families adjust to life after the pandemic and transition back to the office and the classroom, they are finding it difficult to care for pets. Some are relocating out of state for work and others are moving into apartments that prohibit pets.
Others are financially burdened and cannot afford the cost of veterinary care and see no other option but to surrender their animals.
Robyn Urman, founder of Pet ResQ Inc. in Tenafly said, “my goal became keeping animals in their homes instead of removing them. So we will supply food, toys, treat, whatever I can get my hands on. I help people pay vet bills, it’s just become a snowball effect.”
Finding homes for pets is a huge challenge and with an increase in the number of animals being surrendered due to financial hardships and housing challenges, animal shelters are at capacity.
Urman said the foster-based rescue has approximately 18 dogs that are housed in six foster homes and cannot afford anymore.
She said the cost to take care of one dog that was neglected is expensive, costing well over $1,000. Urman had to turn down animals because she is already financially burdened by the ones she currently has.
“Right now I’m full,” Urman said. “I took in a little Cavapoo for example… she has a grade-six heart murmur, she has what they call a PDA and she needs surgery, she will not live six months without it. Her surgery for her is $8,000.”
Urman, who has been rescuing dogs since 1983, said not being able to take in any more dogs scares and guilts her. She contacts other foster families to see if they are able to take in more however finding fosters is one of her biggest challenges for her.
Pet ResQ does not have the financial means or the labor force to take in any more animals and is seeking more volunteers, foster parents, and pet lovers who are interested in adopting.
In the past six weeks, five dogs have been surrendered and Urman finalized six adoptions and currently has two pending.
Sarah Sangree, director of community engagement at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center with locations in Madison and Somerville, said to date, 404 animals have been surrendered and 35 of those animals have been since July 1.
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The shelter finalized 140 adoptions since July and currently has 529 animals, of which 328 are cats and 152 are dogs.
“We are finding that a lot of people are having housing issues whether it’s just the landlord saying no pets or whether they’re being evicted,” Sangree said. “We’ve [also] seen a number of people that are moving across the country, it’s kind of COVID-related job changes.”
She said at St. Hubert’s, they support pet owners and the human-animal bond, and they aim to keep pets in homes whenever possible.
“When people want to keep their pets and they think that they’re going to be able to sort things out within about a month or so we do try to get them into our emergency boarding program,” Sangree said.
The emergency boarding program is for people in a life crisis such as facing eviction or homelessness and don’t want to surrender their pets. It allows them to leave their pet at the shelter for about 30 days if they aren’t aggressive.
If the animal isn’t already, they must agree to allow St. Hubert’s to provide the animal with spaying and neutering and any missing vaccines free of charge.
Financial hardships and the cost of veterinary care, according to Liz Taranda, vice president at Clifton Animal Shelter, is the reason why they have taken in over 180 cats since Jan. 1. Of those, 46 were surrendered in June.
“We are finding that a lot of cats are not being spayed and neutered due to inflation and people not being able to afford the spaying and neutering and that is what’s causing also the huge influx of animals,” Taranda said.
Taranda, who is also the head of the cat department, said being educated on the importance of spaying and neutering is crucial. When families have a cat that has kittens, they call the shelter to remove 10 to 12 kittens from their house.
She said people who are surrendering wait until the last minute to call the shelter without realizing they might not be in the position to take the animal at that exact moment. They take in animals in the order of request and in order of urgency.
According to Evelyn Ackley Raps, president of the shelter and head of the dog department, dogs aren’t being surrendered as much as kittens.
“Kittens are coming in at an alarming pace,” Raps said.
Clifton Animal Shelter finalized 122 cat adoptions since Jan. 1 and three recent dog adoptions.
Along with its emergency boarding program, St. Hubert has partnered with eight different domestic violence shelters and created a safe haven program. This program is for individuals who are experiencing domestic violence and cannot take their pets with them to a housing shelter.
“Think before you leap,” Urman said. “If you’re going to get a dog, you really need to consider all that goes into it and they need to be trained, and they need to be vet cared.”
Davaughnia Wilson is an intern reporter for Northjersey.com. Contact Davaughnia at email@example.com.