(Washington Times) Animal shelters are seeing their worst crowding in three years as the pandemic adoption boom cools and inflation drives owners to surrender their pets in droves.
About 23 million Americans adopted pets during COVID-19 quarantines in April and May 2020 — nearly 1 in 5 households — according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Sharon Stone, operations manager at Hope Animal Sanctuary in Grenada, Mississippi, says her shelter is packed as owners return more dogs and cats than she has seen in 30 years.
“Some people are just turning them loose, and it’s a shame,” Ms. Stone said, noting that she is keeping a mother with 10 puppies at her home for lack of space. “Part of this is the economy. People cannot feed their families and therefore cannot feed their dogs and cats.”
Ms. Stone said dog breeders churned out more puppies to meet increased pandemic demand — and now those dogs are being returned to shelters as many families can no longer afford a bag of food.
The price of pet food rose almost 14% last month compared with the previous September, according to the consumer price index. That was higher than the cost of human food, which rose by more than 11%.
With restrictions easing and inflation driving up pet food and veterinary costs, the Valley Humane Society in California estimates that more than 250,000 dogs and cats need homes nationwide.
James D. Grant, director of the Los Angeles-based Animal Wellness Foundation, said the number of cats and dogs being given up at his rescue shelter has risen by as much as 20% since February.
“Pet food and veterinary costs are through the roof,” Mr. Grant said. “Everybody wanted an animal early in the pandemic, and now people don’t want them because they’re back to work and regular life.”