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Fewer pets euthanized in Utah, but rescuers fear the future of some adopted during pandemic


Tiny Tot and Little Bitty are waiting for their adopters to arrive and pick them up from the Best Friends Animal Society in Salt Lake City on Friday, February 26, 2021. Utah has cut its shelters killed by 1,161 in 2020, a 58% reduction from compared to the previous year, which rescuers attribute in large part to the pandemic. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah reduced its shelters killed by 1,161 last year – a 58% reduction from the previous year – making the state the 13th in the country for rescuing the most dogs and cats, according to new data from Best Friends Animal Society.

But animal rescuers fear that some animals adopted during the pandemic may end up at the shelter or be donated as many owners return to their workplaces.

Last year, 44,767 cats and dogs entered shelters. Of these, 39,358 found new homes and 829 were killed for lack of housing, according to the Best Friends Animal Society.

Company spokesperson Temma Martin said that in the first week of the pandemic, many residents “rallied to welcome record numbers.”

The country saw a 90% increase in foster homes as schools, businesses and recreational activities began to close. Many decided it was a good time to adopt because they expected to spend more time at home, Martin said.

“So we saw a huge increase just thanks to Best Friends in the number of foster families and adoptions at the start of the pandemic,” she said.

COVID-19 has also changed how shelters operate, she added. While they quickly closed, many of their animals were placed in foster homes. When a person was interested in adopting an animal, they would virtually meet the animal’s foster family, a counselor, and the animal – a more comfortable and happy environment for the animal to meet a prospective adoptee. This format has led to more adoptions, Martin said.

Shelter organizations always provided all the supplies to foster families, “but it’s great just because the animal lives in a comfortable home environment and shows itself better than in a cage or kennel,” said said Martin.

“A lot of shelters don’t plan to go back to a shelter full of animals and adopt people from there,” she added.

In the United States, there has been a 40% decrease in the number of animals killed or euthanized – a trend rescuers hope not to reverse. In some states, however, reports indicate that pets adopted during the pandemic are being returned at a high rate.

Salt Lake County Animal Services now has 26 dogs in its shelter, up from an average of 10 to 15 at some point before the pandemic, said Randee Lueker, relief and events coordinator. These are dogs that animal services save on the streets because the shelter generally does not accept drops.

At the same time, adoptions from the shelter are on the decline, she said.

The surge in the number of dogs entering shelters does not appear to be a statewide trend more than a year after COVID-19 hit the state, according to Martin.

“It seems to be staying pretty stable, but of course we’re worried. We want to make sure that people, when they return to work, have a plan for their new pets and prepare them for anxiety. separation and also train them, especially if they have a puppy, train them to be good family members so that they don’t now have a one year old dog that doesn’t have good manners to looking after a new home or dealing with new people, ”Martin said.

She said it’s common for people who adopt puppies to face issues as the puppies get older. Some puppies during the pandemic did not receive professional obedience training due to COVID-19 closures.

Martin said it was not too late – families should play ‘catching up’ now to train their dogs if they are unable to do so during the pandemic. She said she had heard of people wanting to relocate their pets now due to behavioral issues, but if the animal hasn’t been trained it will likely create problems for future owners.

The best thing an owner can do in this situation is spay or neuter the dog if he hasn’t already done so, and find some training advice, according to Martin. Virtual training is available through Zoom and other apps, she said. Outdoor classes are also available.

“I know the temptation is there to just find another home for the animal, but if it behaves in a way that is inconvenient for your family, it will probably be inconvenient for the next family as well,” said Martin. . “These animals were there for us during the pandemic at a difficult time to provide us with companionship.… We owe it to them to help them become a good member of the family, and that involves training.”

For those worried about leaving their pets at home when they go to work, Martin noted that many people were doing so long before the start of the pandemic. Owners can train their pets to be alone for short periods of time and then have them work for longer periods. Dogs typically sleep most of the day when they’re alone, Martin said, so it’s possible to work full-time and have a pet to greet you when you get home.

“This is something we want to make sure people are prepared for so that there isn’t a flood of animals being turned into shelters,” Martin said.

Millions of people bought puppies at the start of the pandemic, Martin said, noting that they were not initially refuge animals and did not come with training. If a lot of homeowners decide to abandon them, “it would have a huge impact on the shelters,” she said.

Most dogs at the Salt Lake County Animal Shelter are between 1 and 3 years old, according to Lueker. Almost a third are huskies, several are shepherds and some are working dogs. She said the shelter has seen an increase in the number of dogs with behavioral issues, but workers at the shelter aren’t sure why.

Lueker urges interested residents to consider adopting or fostering a dog from the county shelter. More information can be found at adoptutahpets.org.

About 70% of Utah animal shelters are designated as no-kill shelters, meaning they only kill animals that are not adoptable, whether due to medical or behavioral issues. They also aim to adopt at least 90% of the animals housed at the shelter.

Those who want to help the state reach the threshold set by the No-Kill Initiative Utah can make an impact by choosing to adopt from a shelter or rescue group, spaying or neutering their pets, adopting pets, volunteering and spreading the word about welfare issues -be animal, said Martin.

For areas with higher death rates, this is usually due to cats in the community, she said, encouraging people to find out if their local government supports programs that trap, neuter and return feral cats. in the colonies. If more shelters adopt such programs, it can help prevent hundreds of animal deaths, Martin said.

Utah County is the only county along the Wasatch Front that does not have a “back-to-the-field” program for stray cats.

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion