Across the U.S., animal shelters are inundated with thousands of homeless animals every year. Mind-blowingly, there are about 70 million stray animals living in the U.S. Of this 70 million, only about six to eight million cats and dogs enter the nation’s 3,500 shelters every year, with only about three to four million cats and dogs adopted from shelters each year. Sadly, nearly half of all animals that arrive in U.S. shelters are euthanized because there is a lack of space and adopters, amounting to roughly 2.7 million dead animals every year or five out of every ten dogs and seven out of every ten cats – that’s about 80,000 animals per week.
As you can imagine, shelters and rescues are struggling to help every pet find the home they deserve. Many shelters incorporate strategies to break stereotypes of shelters animals, such as unique photography and inspirational adoption stories. Shelters also work tirelessly to establish a bond between humans and shelters animals. For instance, many shelters bring dogs and cats to visit senior living facilities, children’s hospitals, and other places where humans might need companionship or a pick-me-up.
Clearing Out the Shelters: Good or Bad?
Another way shelters try to help end pet homelessness and find animals their forever home is by hosting an annual “Clear the Shelter” event, alongside other shelters across the country. NBC and Telemundo owned stations team up with hundreds of shelters to host the event that boasts large adoption success rates. In 2016, 50,000 homeless animals found homes in the U.S. because of the event, according to the Clear the Shelters website.
Sounds great! Since shelters are facing the huge task of combating the pet homelessness crisis, helping deserving animals find their forever homes in mass seems like the perfect solution. But the annual event has been met with strong criticism. Why? The event offer animals for free or for low adoption prices, meaning just about anyone can adopt a dog and they may not be going to loving homes as intended.
The director of a German Shepherd Rescue in Orange County recently submitted an editorial about the Clear the Shelters event. “The Clear The Shelters campaigns are short-sighted, at best, focusing on reducing the number of animals in the shelter by encouraging impulse adoptions at the low, low cost of $20.” she stated. “Such programs do not screen prospective adopters, and virtually anyone 18 or older who can fog a mirror is incentivized to adopt an animal on the spot in the pursuit of the program goal. A false send of urgency promotes sloppy adoptions simply so that the shelter can applaud itself for the ‘success’ of emptying the facility.”
Seeing Clear the Shelter events as a hasty way to meet adoption goals is certainly a valid point of view. But are the events really all that hasty?
What if a person or family who adopts an animal through the Clear the Shelter event for free or at a low adoption price, really will provide a loving home and doesn’t have ill-intentions to hurt the dog? Many shelters will require adopters to return the animal to the shelter if the adoption doesn’t work, a way to keep animals from the streets and to ensure all animals are placed in qualified homes.
Many shelters will require adopters to return the animal to the shelter if the adoption doesn’t work, a way to keep animals from the streets and to ensure all animals are placed in qualified homes. Some shelters also provide a follow-up after an adoption to see how the adopter and the animal are doing. For instance, the ASPCA has a follow-up program where they reach out on the third day after the adoption, the third week after adoption, and the third month after adoption. That’s because shelters know that one way to help solve the pet overpopulation crisis is to first try to keep pets in their homes and out of the shelter system.
Even still, there are numerous reasons why a person may have difficulty affording a pet, with many going without food themselves before letting their pet go hungry. Perhaps there was a death in the family, maybe you lost your job and are having a hard time affording your pet, or maybe your dog or cat is having behavior problems.
There are many resources available for those who may be struggling, such a pet food banks, veterinary assistance, as well as fundraising options. It’s also important to recognize that when you adopt an animal, they will need time to adjust to their new family and environment. Check out these tips for how to help a dog or cat adjust to their new home.
Perhaps the Clear the Shelter events aren’t as awful as some belief, but maybe the key with the Clear the Shelter events is to keep the animals in the home so that they don’t return to the shelter and start the cycle all over again. To help keep dogs and cats out of the shelter, there are many ways you can help.
How You Can Help
In order for off-site pet adoption events and programs to be successful at finding homeless pets forever families, volunteers like you and organization partnerships are needed. You can help assist your local animal shelter in thoroughly vetting a family before they adopt an animal, potentially saving many headaches for all involved if the family knows beforehand that the animal won’t be a good fit.
You can also help ease the burden on animal shelters by fostering a shelter pet. You’ll help socialize and care for homeless animals and being a foster pet parent will lead to fewer shelter pets being euthanized and gives pets more time to find their forever homes while being in a temporary home filled with love.
The homeless pet population can be significantly reduced simply by having your adopted pets spayed or neutered. Not only will this stop overpopulation, but fewer animals will accidentally be born only to be taken to the shelter. Spay and neuter is a proven way to reduce pet overpopulation and can ensure that every pet has a family to love them. If you already spay and neuter your companions, then consider supporting local spay/neuter initiatives through volunteer and awareness-raising efforts, or simply by making a monetary donation.
Whether Clear the Shelter events are helpful or harmful, truly the only way animal advocates are going to put an end to the pet overpopulation crisis is if we all work together and combat the problem from different angles. Think Clear the Shelter events are good ideas or are you skeptical? Leave a comment below to start a discussion with fellow animal lovers!
Lead image source: The.Rohit/Flickr