With more and more pets arriving on their doorstep, shelters are struggling to find them homes.

It’s a familiar story across the country. Many pet owners, faced with the housing crisis and high consumer prices, have been forced to abandon their companions. Meanwhile, prospective owners are thinking twice before committing to a pet due to financial concerns.

This double problem has shaken the shelters.

At the Animal Rescue League of Boston, which has adoption centers in Boston, Dedham and Cape Cod, most animals come from owners who abandon their pets, according to Cailey Bloomgarden-Bredin, director of animal welfare operations. animals.

“Housing insecurity continues to be the leading reason people face the decision to abandon their pets, regardless of species,” she said.

Difficult choices face pet owners who are evicted or unable to find affordable, pet-friendly housing – often because of landlords or homeowner’s insurance policies that restrict or prohibit certain breeds or dog sizes, according to Keiley.

Despite reports suggesting animals adopted during the pandemic were being surrendered to shelters as people returned to in-person work, Keiley said that hasn’t been the case at the MSPCA.

“I think people’s intentions when they buy animals are generally good,” he said. “When people had the choice of returning to work or giving up their pets, they simply chose not to return,” opting instead for remote jobs.

Other factors create difficult conditions for shelters. A shortage of veterinarians limits access to inexpensive spay/neuter services, which can lead to more animals being born and ending up in kennels.

Boston Animal Care and Control, which primarily admits stray animals, has taken in 15% more dogs and 50% more cats since January compared to the same period last year, said Alexis Trzcinski, shelter director. Animals are also staying longer and in greater numbers at the city-run shelter in Roslindale, requiring more attention from staff.

“The level of care the animals need” has increased, Trzcinski said, “so staffing issues are a problem.”

As Animal Rescue League dog and cat adoptions have kept pace with the rise in admissions, interest in small animals — from guinea pigs and rabbits to hamsters and gerbils — has waned.

“We are always looking for new adopters for dogs and cats, but the real need in our shelters is for small animals,” Bloomgarden-Bredin said. The league plans to waive fees at a small animal event later this year.

Stray kittens rescued from Alabama were waiting to be taken in by the Animal Rescue League of Boston.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

However, nationally, the need for adoptions is more pronounced among dogs, particularly large breeds, who are being admitted to shelters and euthanized at much higher rates this year, according to Keiley and the database . Number of animals in shelters.

“All our shelters have started to fill up. We were having trouble getting dogs into homes,” he said. “And there are no other shelters that have space. Everyone is in the same situation.

Due to rising ownership costs, Keiley said, people looking for a pet may be less inclined to adopt dogs, which generally require a greater financial commitment than cats.

From January to March, 14% more dogs arrived as strays in shelters nationwide than during the same period in 2022, according to Shelter Animals Count. reported. During these three months, “non-living consequences” for dogs, including euthanasia, almost doubled from the level seen in 2021.

“If you’re a small dog or cat coming into an animal shelter, the chances of you finding a loving home are pretty good,” said Kim Alboum, director of shelter outreach and policy development at the BISSELL Pet Foundation, which aims to find homes for shelter animals. “But if you’re a big dog, whatever type of big dog you are, your stay will be longer.”

“Big dogs are sitting in shelters and being overcrowded, and it’s absolutely devastating,” she said.

To combat this “national dog crisis,” as Keiley describes it, the MSPCA waived its adoption fees for large dogs at events this summer. Those efforts helped find homes for more than 300 dogs in June, the most in recent memory, Keiley said.

The success of the MSPCA also freed up space to admit animals from shelters elsewhere.

More recently, he brought a planeload of animals July 12 — nine dogs, 10 cats and a chinchilla — from the Central Vermont Humane Society to East Montpelier, Vt., where torrential rains caused disastrous flooding.

“What we’re doing is preparing to have space to accommodate displaced animals from communities all around us that were underwater,” said Erika Holm, co-executive director of programs and operations of the humanitarian society.

The shelter has already received calls from people wanting to abandon their pets or return strays found in the storm’s aftermath.

Amid the broader decline in adoptions across the country, Holm urged people to be “very thoughtful” when considering adopting a pet. But she implored them to do so if they have room for it in their homes and “in their hearts.”

“Good homes are really needed right now,” she said.

Dapper, a Staffordshire mix, was awaiting adoption at the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Alex Koller can be contacted at alex.koller@globe.com. follow him @alexkoller_.


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