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Thursday August 18th

'Left behind': Orange County Animal Services sees increase in dog surrenders

“I think a lot of people are finding that they don't have time for their animals now."

A variety of dogs, mainly pitbulls, wait to be adopted on Monday, March 21, 2022 at Orange County Animal Services.
Buy Photos A variety of dogs, mainly pitbulls, wait to be adopted on Monday, March 21, 2022 at Orange County Animal Services.

Over the last few months, Orange County Animal Services has seen an increase in dog surrenders and a drop in adoptions, leaving more dogs without homes.

The shelter has not reached its maximum capacity and is trying to avoid doing so, Tenille Fox, OCAS communications specialist, said.

Now, OCAS is focusing its efforts on bringing more visitors to the shelter.

“We want to make sure that we spread the word," Fox said. "We are seeing a drop in adoptions, and so if anybody is even thinking about it, we want to encourage them to come to the shelter.”

OCAS began a spring adoption special Monday. During the special, community members can name their price for adult cats and dogs or adopt kittens and puppies for reduced fees.

Fox said the shelter had 12 dogs available to foster or adopt as of Monday. More will become available as soon as possible after the shelter has evaluated them and provided medical treatment.

One possible factor contributing to the increase in dog surrenders, Fox said, is that many people who might have gotten dogs during the pandemic are now returning to in-person work.

From March 2020 to May 2021, about one in five households in the U.S. got a dog or cat, according to data from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“I think a lot of people are finding that they don't have time for their animals now," she said.

Professional dog trainer Ryan Thunder, the owner of Red Earth Thunder, said people are more willing to adopt a pet or be more affectionate toward their existing pets during times of financial hardship.

He said the rise in adoptions during the pandemic followed the same trend as the 2008 financial crisis, when the pet industry skyrocketed because animals provided comfort.

But like when pet owners were recovering from the Great Recession, dogs are now being surrendered at a higher rate as communities attempt to return to normal after the height of the pandemic.

“Dogs are not convenient for people's lives anymore,” Thunder said. "People see them as disposable, unfortunately." 

Nicole Blanton-Clark, the founder of Charley's K-9 Rescue, said the pandemic has increased skepticism about aggression in rescue dogs.

“Human aggression has escalated in dogs because they haven't been properly socialized in the past few years," she said. "So I just think the dogs are getting left behind.”

Thunder said that to help address these behavioral problems, he encourages anyone who is considering adopting to get in touch with a trainer.

In addition to surrendering animals that were acquired during earlier parts of the pandemic, the shelter crisis is escalated by fear of the unknown, he said.

Thunder said people are feeling uncertain and unwilling to commit to the added expense of a pet.

“People are fearful," he said. "Because the world around us is a bit of a crazy place right now. It has been for the last few years.”

The county is offering several programs in addition to its spring special adoption special, including a pet food assistance program and a two-for-one deal on cats. There are also reduced adoption fees for anyone 65 and older, and senior citizens adopting a senior cat or dog can adopt for free.

Fox said anyone who wants to help but is unable to adopt can also volunteer with OCAS, cover adoption fees and tell other community members about the shelter's animals.

"Just spread the word that these animals are amazing,” she said. “We have such great dogs there."

The spring adoption special ends on April 30.

For more information on adoption specials and programs, visit the Orange County Animal Services website


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