Vermont animal rescue groups report dwindling adoptions, citing housing and economic pressures

Teremy Garen, left, and Alex Wedge look at cats available for adoption at the Humane Society of Chittenden County in South Burlington on Tuesday, December 20, 2022. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

At the Humane Society of Chittenden County, the number of dogs entering the shelter far exceeds the number adopted.

In 2021, 319 dogs were adopted; so far this year, only 171 dogs have found homes. At the same time, the number of dogs brought to the shelter has increased from 198 last year to 268 this year, said Erin Alamed, director of the shelter and volunteer.

“We’re not able to actually, you know, support our community as we would like and as our mission says, unfortunately, because we literally, physically can’t have dogs in our building anymore,” Alamed said.

It’s an issue that affects several animal rescue organizations across the state, with shelter staff citing housing and economic pressures as key factors forcing people to give up their pets and discouraging potential new owners.

VT Dog Rescue is a volunteer-run, foster-based operation in Chittenden County that rescues local and southern animals. Its founder and director, Brigitte Thompson, said adoptions were down 52% this quarter compared to 2021.

Previously, it only took a week or two for a dog or puppy to be adopted after a week-long admissions process.

“We now have puppies that we’ve had since October 22. That’s unheard of,” Thompson said.

A cat awaits adoption at the Humane Society of Chittenden County in South Burlington on Tuesday, December 20, 2022. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

VT Dog Rescue has had to “slow down” the number of dogs or puppies coming in from the South to accommodate the drop in adoptions, according to Thompson.

Meanwhile, Thompson said the rescue organization has seen a 67% increase from 2021 in the number of Vermonters seeking to surrender their dogs, an issue the Chittenden County Humane Society is also experiencing.

Alamed said the number of abandoned dogs rose from 179 in 2021 to 239 in 2022. Dogs brought in by animal control rose from 19 to 29, with more expected before the end of the year.

The Chittenden County Humane Society has seen dogs abandoned due to behavioral issues, which may be due to poor socialization during the pandemic, Alamed said.

But several rescue organizations have also cited economic pressure and recession fears as possible factors leading Vermonters to abandon their pets.

The shortage of affordable housing in Vermont is also contributing to the rise in dropouts, according to shelter staff. In some cases, they take in Vermont pets who have been evicted or couldn’t find pet-friendly housing.

“We find that it’s harder to find a home, usually a living situation, with dogs more than cats,” Alamed said.

Beth Saradarian is the executive director of the Rutland County Humane Society, which is also seeing fewer adoptions this year. Saradarian said some owners have abandoned their pets because they are now homeless.

To reduce the costs of caring for a pet, many humane societies offer programs that provide pet food and free or discounted neutering and neutering services or other veterinary care. . Some humanitarian societies also have programs for people struggling with housing. Some organizations will look after the owner’s animal for a period of two weeks (sometimes longer) while they look for housing.

Margaret Aiken visits newly arrived puppy Lori at the Humane Society of Chittenden County in South Burlington on Tuesday, December 20, 2022. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

One example is Chittenden’s Good Neighbor Program, which Alamed says has tripled since the pandemic began in March 2020. However, due to capacity issues with dogs, the organization determined several weeks ago that she could no longer accept dogs under this program.

Humane societies, including Chittenden and Rutland, said they don’t have the same adoption or abandonment challenges for cats, pointing to the fact that cats can be cheaper and easier to care for than dogs. .

Smaller cat rescues, however, reported experiencing the opposite.

Chittenden County-based Queen City Cats and Franklin County-based From Feral to Fur-ever both reported adoptions were down.

Charlotte Benedict, founder and director of From Feral to Fur-ever, said the organization’s adoptions have dropped by about 40%.

“Everyone and their brother were adopting during the pandemic. And you couldn’t keep a cat longer than a day or two and it was adopted. But since then, you know, things are slowing down and the market is starting to get saturated,” Benedict said.

Benedict said she’s concerned that some humane societies, including Chittenden County’s, continue to receive animals from the South while Vermont cats struggle to get adopted and strays continue to be a problem. problem.

A couple look at cats available for adoption at the Humane Society of Chittenden County in South Burlington on Tuesday, December 20, 2022. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Chittenden Humane transports between 25 and 50 cats once a month from the South and transports dogs or puppies when they have capacity, which is typically three to six times a year, according to Alamed.

She said cat transports from the South do not affect shelter capacity or wait times for owner abandonments.

Miche Faust, founder and director of Queen City Cats and former employee of Chittenden Humane, said some owners have told her they have had to wait up to four weeks to return their pet or walk away from human society.

Alamed said the wait time to relinquish an animal is usually one to two weeks, but can be longer during busy seasons, such as summer.

Faust said his organization, which is run entirely by volunteers and based in foster families, has exceeded its maximum capacity. She said she usually caps the number of foster cats at 12, but she’s seen so much need in the community that she has 10 foster families caring for 35 cats.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize there’s a problem here,” Faust said. “I always feel like there are a lot of cats out there that need to be saved. But I think the reason cats are kind of overlooked is that a lot of people believe in the myth that cats can take care for themselves outside.

Lori, a newly arrived puppy, rests in her bed at the Humane Society of Chittenden County in South Burlington on Tuesday, December 20, 2022. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Did you know that VTDigger is a non-profit organization?

Our journalism is made possible by donations from members of readers like you. If you appreciate what we do, please contribute at our annual fundraiser and send 10 meals to the Vermont Food Bank when you do.

Filed under:

People and places

Tags: animals, Chittenden County, Erin Alamed, foster family, housing, Humane Society of Chittenden County, pandemic, pets, puppies, rescue dogs, Rutland County, Rutland County Humane Society, Vermont Dog Rescue

Juliette Schulman-Hall

About Juliet

Juliet Schulman-Hall is a recent graduate of Smith College, with a major in English, a minor in sociology, and a concentration in poetry. More recently, she worked for MassLive on abortion and the environment, among other topics. Previously, she worked for Ms. Magazine and freelanced for PBS’s Next Avenue and Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.