Animal Shelters are Predicting Another Crisis. Here's How You Can Help

Shelters across the country are facing decreasing adoption and fostering rates.

Puppy and Kitten
Photo: Getty Images / djgunner

When the pandemic hit two years ago this month, many animal shelters across the country were forced to shut down, causing a massive increase in homeless dogs and cats. At the time, Americans stepped up to the plate by adopting and fostering pets at astronomical rates.

A study analyzing foster rates from 1,200 animal welfare organization found that foster rates increased by 93% during the week of March 14-20, 2020 compared to the week before. And that trend continued over the next year as the pandemic raged on. Pandemic puppy, anyone?

But now that COVID-19 rates have started to stabilize and people are getting out of the house more, adoptions are way down, and animal shelters are on the verge of facing another crisis. According to nonprofit organization Best Friends Animal Society, there are around 100,000 more dogs and cats in shelters this year compared to last year.

In addition to the decreased adoption and fostering rates, 87% of shelters report being understaffed and the transport of pets from overcrowded shelters to other shelters across the country is also slowing down. All this compounded with the fact that mating season for cats is right around the corner and the number of kittens in shelters is about to skyrocket, spells a recipe for disaster.

If you're looking for a way to help, here are three tips to get started.

1. Adopt, foster, volunteer, and donate!

The best way to offer practical help is to adopt or foster a dog or cat. If you're not able to commit the time or don't have the right environment to bring a pet home, volunteering at a local shelter can help alleviate understaffing woes as shelters manage a larger intake of animals than ever before. Donations also go a long way in providing shelters with essential supplies to keep animals safe and cared for.

2. Try to reunite or rehome found pets.

Another way to help is to keep pets out of shelters as much as possible. That means if you come across a stray dog or cat, instead of taking them directly to a shelter, first make sure they don't already have a home. Take them to a veterinarian that can scan them for a chip, or keep them in your yard while you ask around your neighborhood, via social media or sites like Nextdoor, if anyone is missing a pet. If the pet doesn't have an owner, see if you can find the pet a new family using your network and rehoming platforms like Rehome and Get Your Pet.

WATCH: 7-Year-Old Boy Has Helped Rescue More Than 1,400 Dogs from Southern Kill Shelters

3. Be patient and keep an open mind.

The process of finding a new pet to join your family or finding a new home for a stray animal can be difficult but can also bring immense joy. Be patient when you're on your search, and remember to give grace to employees and volunteers at shelters who may be taking on more than they should. Keep an open mind about breeds, sizes, and types of dogs and cats. Every furry friend deserves a loving home, and you may be just the person to provide one!

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