From when the global pandemic began to today, plenty of changes took place, and lots of businesses suffered. Without anyone to volunteer, animal shelters experienced a dramatic change that would affect not only the workers but the animals as well.

At the start of the pandemic, animal shelters actually noticed a surge in adoption. The adoption rates increased 250% within the first 5 months. But come December 2020, rates had dropped back down to the 5-year average. Many animals that had been adopted were being returned or abandoned once life began to return back to “normal.” People who had adopted pets solely for companionship during this hard time realized the work it took to own a pet and give them the life they deserve. With this unfortunate turn in pace, shelters soon became overcrowded and were left to the wolves. “It’s impacting animal shelters in terms of their staffing and volunteer support… it’s impacting them in terms of funding. There are no federal and state dollars that support shelter operations. And so the economic insecurity that is impacting so many industries is also weighing heavily on animal shelters” Elizabeth Berliner said in an interview with NPR.

With the current low rate of volunteering, the San Marcos Animal Shelter found it difficult to upkeep its cleanliness and give the animals the proper attention they needed.

“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is the drop in volunteers at the shelter. Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, fewer people have been coming in to help out which has severely hurt the shelter. Without helping hands the animals don’t get the proper attention they need.” said Emmy Padilla, who volunteers at the San Marcos Animal Shelter

Animals need to be fed daily, taken outside, and receive proper kennel cleaning. Without these basic needs, the shelter animals won’t become socialized and won’t grow properly. They need attention in some capacity and without enough volunteers, shelters are unable to meet the basic needs these animals need.

Along with the adoption surge, fostering animals has also become a more popular trend since the start of the global pandemic. It is a short-term commitment people have opted for instead of adoption.

“It’s a lot more cost-efficient to foster an animal rather than just immediately adopting them, it also gives you a chance to learn about the animal, and it’s not as strict as jumping into a commitment,” said Jules Le who works at a local San Marcos Vet clinic.

This way, instead of going through with adoption just to return an animal, a person can help out not only a full shelter but also an animal in need. Fostered animals are more likely to become adopted afterward since they will have been properly socialized and house trained. Fostering a furry friend is a great way to help out these local shelters if adoption is not an option.

Adoption rates surged at the very beginning of the pandemic but just as quickly as they rose, it has dropped back down to the national 5-year average. This means shelters are quickly becoming overpopulated and crowded. At the San Marcos Animal Shelter there are dogs sitting in tiny kennels near the front desk because they don’t have enough cages in the back to house them.

“I adopted my dog just this past fall, and while I’m not sure how the adoption process usually goes, I’m pretty sure it’s not like what I experienced. There weren’t many volunteers and the ones they did have were probably half my age. It was sad, I can’t imagine those animals are getting much attention.” said Jorge Trujillo, who recently adopted a dog.

Many opportunities exist to alleviate conditions at animal shelters so that animal shelters may return back to normal pre-COVID conditions. They can always use volunteers and donations so that the shelter can run properly. Fostering is just one way to lend a hand if you can’t adopt an animal full-time. Just like any business affected by the global pandemic, it will take time to get these shelters back to normal conditions, but with some help, they can at least begin moving towards the goal of normality. There are a few data visualizations put in throughout this blog post that can show different ways you can help out animal shelters.

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