Texas Animal Rescue Shelters Struggle With Overcrowding As More Owners Forced To Give Up Their Pets

Toby Hazlewood

Cost of living crisis and increased immigration is causing record intake levels at shelters

Dogs in a rescue shelterPhoto byWikimedia

In December 2022 a Forbes Advisor Survey reported that an overwhelming majority (78%) of current pet owners in the US had acquired pets during the pandemic.

For many people, pets were the perfect antidote to loneliness throughout periods of lockdown and enforced isolation. However, animal rescue charities and shelters are now reporting a reversal of that trend.

More and more people are finding themselves struggling with basic living costs, let alone the cost of feeding and insuring pets. Whilst economic challenges show no signs of easing, some owners are having to take the tough decision to give up their beloved animals.

Cost of Living Crisis

In a recent Texas news item, Cory Stottlemyer, Deputy Shelter Director of BARC in Houston, was asked about the shifting trends in animal ownership in Texas and the consequent impact on shelters such as BARC. He notes:

Since 2020 and the start of Covid we have seen a decrease in the amount of animals rehomed from the shelter, but this year we are also seeing a steady increase in the number of animals our enforcement team is bringing into the shelter.

He goes on to explain how the capacity level of animals taken into the shelter is dictated both by the physical space available to temporarily house them and by staffing numbers at the shelter. With increasing inflation, organisations such as these, many of which are non-profits and dependent on donations to operate, are not always able to financially support the same level of staffing and running costs as they were prior to the recession.

On an annual basis, nearly 2 million dogs are euthanized in county shelters. Now, as a result of inflation and the highest owner-surrender rates every recorded in rescue history, it is projected that nearly 10 million dogs will be euthanized this year.

Border states worst hit

The issue of stray animals is exacerbated in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, by the influx of immigrants coming into the US, who are forced to leave their pets at the Mexican border. This means that shelters in states like Texas are even more oversubscribed.

Already under significant pressure, Border Patrol agents are left dealing with the unexpected fallout: Humans are detained, and their pets are left behind to fend for themselves. Sadly, Border Patrol seemingly has no policy in place to deal with the abandoned animals who are often left to fend for themselves in sometimes triple figure heat.

Dogs at the Big Dog Ranch, TexasPhoto byBig Dog Ranch Rescue

Hope on the horizon

There is some call for optimism though as organisations such as the Buddy Foundation and Big Dog Ranch Rescue are stepping in to help address the issue. The Buddy Foundation, based in Texas, goes to great lengths to reunite or rehome dogs left on the Texas-Mexico border.

The Big Dog Ranch Rescue has bases in Florida and Alabama and facilitates the movement of rescued dogs away from the border to states where animal rescues and rehoming charities have more capacity and better odds for rehoming.

A recent interview between Fox News' Tucker Carlson and the The Big Dog Ranch Rescue's owner-founder Lauree Simmons led to donations of $600k being made to the non-profit organisation, suggesting that the USA continues to be a nation of ardent dog lovers.

Puppy dog face: a shelter dog hoping to be adopted.Photo byIan Phillips, Wikimedia Commons

JC Penney has recently launched a campaign, partnering with shelters in 10 cities around the country to help senior rescue dogs find their forever homes, suggesting that the department store chain understands and is keen to tap into the American public's love of dogs. JCP is also donating £1,000 to each of the shelters it has partnered with, to help animals find homes.

For more information, or to donate your time or money to the charities mentioned above, check out the links to their home pages.

What's your view on overpopulation issues in America's animals shelters? Should more funding be given or more be done to assist in the rehoming of animals? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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