Where have all the shelter pets gone?

Where have all the shelter pets gone?


by Brandon Mustful

Over the past year or so, there have been fewer pets at our animal shelter than most people are accustomed to.  When I first started working here in 2012, we normally had about 50 or 60 adoptable cats and 20 to 30 adoptable dogs.  In the past year or so, you may have noticed that we only have about 15 to 20 cats and 5 or 10 dogs at any given time.  Many people will walk in the shelter and comment on the lack of animals.  They admit that it is not necessarily a bad thing, but are still confused.  The truth is, I don’t really know exactly why there are so many fewer adoptable pets, but I think there are several factors involved.

  1. Shorter Length of Stay – We are adopting pets faster!  Our goal is always to adopt the pets as quickly as is reasonable.  Shelter pets shouldn’t have to stay at the shelter any longer than necessary- they should go to permanent homes.  That has always been our goal, but it isn’t always easy.  Fortunately, over the last three or four years, the average length of time for a shelter pet to stay with the shelter has decreased considerably.  In 2012, the average length of stay for shelter pets was 96 days for cats, and 92 days for dogs.  In 2015, the average length of stay has decreased to 42 days for cats and 26 days for dogs.  The average length of stay is basically the average number of days from the day a pet arrives at the shelter, until the day it is officially adopted.  That means the average length of stay includes days in which the animal was quarantined (usually the first 10 days), and any time spent in foster care before being spayed/neutered.  I don’t have an exact statistic for how many days an animal stays in the shelter as an adoptable pet, but it is probably only about 3 to 4 weeks right now!  With animals leaving the shelter so quickly, it can be hard to replace them.  Based on our our intake procedures and the amount of space in our quarantine areas, we can take in about 20 – 30 animals per month.  Yet, it is not uncommon for us to adopt over 30 animals in a month.  Therefore, we are bound to have empty kennels that can’t be filled as quickly as they are being vacated.
  2. Less Requests for Surrender – Over the past few years, we have tried to accurately document how many pets people have tried to surrender, or bring-in, to us.  It can be hard to keep track of this perfectly, but we do the best we can.  In 2013, we averaged about 56 requests per month.  That number stayed very consistent in 2014 with an average of 55 requests per month.  But, in 2015, we have received only an average of only 37 requests per month.  That is a significant decline in only one year.  It is impossible to know exactly why there are fewer requests for surrender.  Perhaps, due to the efforts of animal welfare agencies like our own, we are finally having an impact on pet overpopulation in the area.  Since 2012, Kindest Cut has been holding at least four spay/neuter clinics in the Bemidji area.  They have spayed/neutered over 1,000 animals in that time.  Couple that with the great work of agencies like Leech Lake Legacy, Red Lake Rosies, and dozens of other shelters and rescues in Northern Minnesota, and we are probably having a positive impact on pet overpopulation.  Social media almost certainly plays a role in this as well.  With the increasing popularity of websites like Craig’s List, Facebook, and other social sites, it’s easier than ever for people to find homes on their own for pets.  Of course, we don’t recommend using those sites as a first option, but it happens, and will continue to happen.  Ultimately, I don’t have the information to say for sure why there are less requests to bring animals to us, but I do know that there have been fewer requests.



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