Oscar is a one-year-old cattle dog looking for a new home after his family was unable to secure housing. Courtesy photo

As people were told to stay home in 2020, due to the initial spread of COVID-19, pet adoptions from animal shelters skyrocketed. However, in 2021, animal shelters across the country have reported a record amount of those same animals being returned, or surrendered, to shelters.

Colorado Animal Rescue, better known as C.A.R.E, has an adoptable shelter population that consists of stray, local homeless animals, as well as animals that have been surrendered or relocated from other organizations, such as Mesa County Animal Services of Grand Junction, Denver Dumb Friends League, La Plata Humane Society in Durango and two shelters in Utah.

In 2020, at the height of the stay-at-home orders, the nonprofit shelter also saw fewer animals arriving locally to their location, either as strays or surrenders, than they did in 2019.

According to Wes Boyd, executive director of the organization, this was due to fewer pets escaping their homes during the workday as folks turned to working from home or being unable to go to their jobs. This became an opportunity, with the increased demand for adoptions.

“We were able to transfer in more animals from partner organizations and saw shorter lengths of stay for those animals. With limited staffing and our own limitations due to COVID, this balance of low intake and higher adoption rates worked well and we celebrated the number of animals quickly finding their new homes,” he stated.

In 2021, C.A.R.E has seen a shift back to “pre-pandemic intake rates,” meaning that, while their stray animal intake has remained lower, they have seen surrenders that have matched their 2019 numbers at 256 animals.

“Adoption interest remains steady at an average of 625 animals being adopted each year. But with increased owner relinquishments, we see animals that need a more specific type of home, increasing the overall average length of stay for those pets. Overall, we live in a community that very much cares for their pets, but the challenges of a busy lifestyle, high cost of living and limited housing are more evident once again as we enter a new normal,” Boyd stated.

The reasons why someone may surrender an animal are varied. While there are cases of neglect and even downright abuse, more often the situation is beyond the control of the pet owner.

“The reasons for an owner to surrender their pet to the shelter often involve major life changes, such as major health problems, financial strain, change of employment, or loss of housing. In other instances, the animal may have developed a health or behavior problem that the owner is unable to accommodate. In almost all of these scenarios, the owner is trying to do what is best for the animal and these owners are usually quite heartbroken. In our area, the two prevailing reasons for an owner to surrender their pet are housing restrictions — or lack of available pet-friendly housing for rent — and animal behavior problems,” stated Boyd.

This does not mean that animals are surrendered due to a lack of love. Even qualified pet owners may find themselves in situations that leave them no other choice but to part ways with an animal.

When adopting a pet, there are several things to consider before making the final decision to add another member to the family. For example, whether the animal is a good fit for the home or lifestyle; whether the owner can provide the pet with adequate exercise, attention and training; and whether the owner can properly care for the animal’s medical and basic needs.

“At C.A.R.E., we feel the most important factors for owners to consider before adoption are related to the individual pet. Very rarely do we discourage someone from adopting a pet, instead we hope to guide an owner to their best match in a companion pet and offer the resources to make that adoption successful,” Boyd stated.

For more information about adopting a pet, pet care, volunteering, or to make a donation to C.A.R.E., visit: www.coloradoanimalrescue.org

According to surveys conducted by C.A.R.E. the top reasons for an owner surrender or animal return in 2021 were: 

Behavior/Too active/Too much to handle/Animal aggression/Not housetrained: 74 or 38.7%

Housing/Moving into no-pet housing/Current landlord says no: 49 or 25.7%

Litter/Pregnancy/Accidental: 25 or 13.1%

Owner/Not enough time: 18 or 6.8%

Animal Health/Can’t handle or afford: 17 or 6.4%

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