Humane Society shelters in Kitchener and Stratford received more than 2,300 animals in 2022, a spokesperson told Global News on Wednesday.
“In 2020 and 2021, we saw roughly 15 or 1,600 animals each year through both of our centres,” said Calla James, director community engagement & outreach for the Humane Society of Kitchener Waterloo & Stratford Perth (HSKWSP).
“But in 2022, that went up to over 2,300 animals coming through our doors.”
She points to a variety of reasons that people were forced to surrender their animals last year.
“We’re seeing people indicating that they can’t care for pets properly whether that be a time commitment, whether that’s being they can’t afford to cover medical bills or the cost of care,” James explained.
“So that could be including food or anything else that they might need as well as, like we said, a high reason is that they’ve encountered a medical issue that wasn’t anticipated or it just at that time they don’t have the finances to cover it.”
She noted that there 95 animals surrendered to the two shelters last year in situations where the owner was unable to afford medical care.
“In a lot of cases, those are typically pretty emergency reasons,” James shared.
“We definitely know that the economy is impacting things. People are having to choose between feeding their pets and feeding their family. The cost of housing has increased and we’re definitely seeing people reach out for those reasons.”
She said that the Humane Society does offer some help that may allow people to keep their pets.
“Our goal is to keep people and pets together first and foremost, and of course, to offer that support secondary to that, where if they need to come in, then that’s where we’re here to try to help in any way we can,” James said.
“We are definitely noticing that we have an uptick in people calling not just for surrendering, but also for looking for assistance for pets,” she said.
“They’re wanting to know what programs or resources might there be out there because they’re having a particular struggle, whether it be with behavior and training, whether it be with feeding their pet.”
In order to assist, the Humane Society offers a number of programs to help including videos on dog and cat training, low-cost veterinary help as well as a food bank.
“During the COVID pandemic, we launched an emergency pet food bank in partnership with a variety of other organizations,” James noted.
“We’ve continued that ourselves, and we now call it our Pet Pantry program. And in 2023, we moved from appointment based to just a drop in base.”
While they did receive hundreds of extra animals last year, James says that the shelters are staying empty for the most part as animals are still finding homes fairly quickly.
“Our average length of stay for small animals, cats and dogs was normally under a week,” she noted. “But now we are seeing longer stays.”