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HomeNewsU.S. Animal Shelters Face Crisis Over Surge in Unwanted Dog 

U.S. Animal Shelters Face Crisis Over Surge in Unwanted Dog 

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Dogs in a Dog Shelter
Source: CityofOdessa/X DougDelony/X

There is a national dog crisis in the United States. Animal shelters nationwide are filled and overflowing with dogs that exceed their capacity. Experts warn that the situation may spill out of control. 

In October 2023, New York City’s largest animal care center, the Animal Care Centers of NYC, had had enough. It will no longer accept dog surrenders at any of its branches. All its locations had already taken in more dogs than they should. 

The hallways of animal shelters are now full of dog crates. Shelters are receiving way more calls for help from pet owners looking to hand over their animals. To worsen the matter, pet adoptions have drastically dropped. 

These and many more examples reflect the brewing dog crisis in the nation. Many animal shelter workers are returning to the office as the workload is unprecedented. 

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According to Shelter Animals Count, a non-profit that manages the national database and statistics of sheltered animals, we have every reason to be worried. 

The organization’s survey shows that there is a 6% rise in the number of stray dogs taken in by shelters from January to November 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Their findings also show a 22% rise since 2021. 

The organization, which manages and analyzes data from over 7,000 shelters nationwide, has also decried the high number of shelters closing their doors to new intakes. 

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“Shelters are quite literally at crisis, and some of them are making the decision to close their doors.” Some other shelters “reduce hours of operation or reduce the kind of animals that they bring in,” says the organization’s executive director, Stephanie Filer. 

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Contrary to what many would expect, the increased spate of animal surrender hasn’t stopped at older dogs. Trends are changing. Owners are now turning in more puppies and purebred dogs than in previous years. 

This dog crisis is a stark contrast to what obtained during the pandemic. Lockdown periods saw a spike in animal adoptions across the country. The US pet population also grew during the pandemic. 2020 recorded a 6% increase while 2021 saw a 4% increase as against the typical 1% yearly rise. 

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Although the Animal Care Centers of NYC has resumed taking in pets, they attribute this policy change to improvisation. “We’re having to create space in a way that we haven’t had before,” said Zoe Kenney. Kenney is an Admissions counselor at the facility. 

Kenney, whose job connects pet owners to their needs, says she receives about 20 calls daily from owners looking to give up their pets. The reasons? Landlord disputes and economic reasons. 

Now that the lockdowns are over, landlords have begun enforcing bans on certain dog breeds and sizes. Some have banned dogs on their premises altogether. 

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With the worsening economic situation, many dog owners can no longer afford to care for their dogs. “Sometimes, people are choosing between putting food on their plates and their pet’s plates,” Kenny disclosed. 

To solve the issue, animal welfare groups like the Humane Society of the United States are leading the advocacy for remedial policies. It has been pushing for housing policies that are friendly to dogs and cats. An example is California’s 2022 law that provides incentives for developing low-income housing without pet restrictions. 

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