The status of Florida animal shelters over the past 18 months has improved despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing significant changes to the way some shelters operate and the focus on services that They provide. But a lot of progress remains to be made.
The rate of “savings” for most shelters has increased, but shelters are still at full capacity, and the influx of cats and kittens during the “annual kitten season”, typically between April and October, when cats often have their litters, was higher than usual.
Popular belief has been that pet adoptions increased in the first few months of the pandemic, but statistics show this is not true overall nationwide, statewide. and among local shelters.
âIt is a commonly repeated myth that families confined to the house adopted more pets during the pandemic,â according to the Florida Shelter Animal Census 2020, compiled by the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.
The study looked at 154 brick-and-mortar shelters in all counties in Florida, not including rescue groups that lack physical facilities. Of that number, 147 responded with data.
Permanent adoptions in Florida increased from 204,215 in 2019 to 172,407 in 2020, according to the study.
This is in part due to the fact that animal consumption has also declined nationally, nationally and locally. Some shelters have limited hours or even suspended admissions. Many have focused their efforts on keeping animals out of shelters in the first place, working with pet owners to address the issues that prompted them to decide to hand over animals, whether for services veterinarians, behavioral or food problems.
However, the number of people wanting to accommodate pets in shelters has increased dramatically. Danielle Somerville, Animal Services Program Coordinator for Collier County Domestic Animal Services, recalls that at the start of the pandemic, when people started being confined to the house, she came to work and there were people doing the queue at the door of their shelter to promote animals. They were worried about what would happen to the animals if the shelter closed, she said. âIt was incredibly rewarding. It was the part of the pandemic that was enjoyable. “
Many shelters are now partnering more with other animal shelters and rescue groups, helping each other when they are at full capacity or have a case with special needs. Lee County Domestic Animal Services now partners with 82 shelter and rescue groups across the state, the most recent in Kissimmee, said Karen Fordiani, public information specialist. Some of these are breed specific or focus on small animals, cat rescues or foster families.
One of the success stories is that of Khaleesi, a dog who was found almost starved to death on August 11 in Lehigh Acres, her skeletal body barely able to stand. Lee County Domestic Animal Services sent the dog to Mutty Paws Rescue in West Palm Beach. Foster Rescue is dedicated to providing medical care and rehabilitation to animals facing ‘death row’. Khaleesi has gained 10 pounds and is in foster care.
A total of 313,547 cats and dogs were admitted to shelters in Florida in 2020. Other highlights from the UF study:
Â¦ Free-roaming / stray cats and dogs accounted for more than half of all intakes.
Â¦ Live results were obtained for 87% of animals brought to shelters in Florida, a jump of 33% since 2013. This number rose to 91% if 10,697 animals brought to shelters specifically for euthanasia services were not included.
Â¦ Adoptions (63%) were the main route of live outcomes, followed by transfers to other groups (17%), return to owner (10%) and return to field of community chats (8%).
Â¦ Euthanasia of dogs has decreased by 78% and euthanasia of cats has decreased by 81% since 2013.
Saving the cats remains the biggest challenge. Nationally, they are taken to shelters more than twice as many as dogs. Statewide and locally, a ratio of nearly 2 to 1 is common.
The University of Florida study says live results for cats (84%) are consistently lower than for dogs (91%). Almost twice as many cats are euthanized as dogs.
As Florida sees gains internally, a national study titled “The State of US Animal Sheltering 2020” by Best Friends, a leader in the no-kill movement, ranks Florida 4th in the country in terms of number of cats. and dogs in need of rescue, with 24,289.
The commonly accepted benchmark for a no-kill animal shelter is a savings rate of 90%. Best friends call the difference between a shelter’s savings rate and the non-destructive benchmark the “saving gap.”
Six states: Texas, California, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Louisiana, account for 50.4% of the survival gap in the country, according to the study.
On a positive note, the vital gap for all six states, and almost every other state, narrowed in 2020. Florida’s fell 46.6% from 45,503 cats and dogs in need of care. be saved at 24,289.
Nationally, there was a 44.6% drop, from 625,400 dogs and cats to 346,622.
There is a lack of consistency in how animal shelter data is defined and tracked nationally. There is no mandatory declaration at the federal level. Best Friends started compiling their database of brick and mortar shelters around 2010.
The pandemic has prompted some changes within the nonprofit Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League in West Palm Beach, including a focus on a “safety net” program to address issues that could help homeowners. animals to give up their pets in the first place.
It could be medical issues, behavioral issues, or simply the inability to purchase pet food, said Dr Alyssa Comroe, director of veterinary medicine at the shelter. But work with someone who makes a request to donate a pet and ask them why is giving them a moment to breathe and consider what the alternatives might be. âWe are really trying to see what needs we can provide,â she said.
The shelter also attracts animals from other crowded facilities including Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control. They took in animals from Louisiana made homeless by Hurricane Ida, Dr Comroe said.
The placement of animals is also experiencing a significant increase.
The league opened a new 28,000 square foot pet adoption center in April. The facility also offers humane education programs to help educate more people, especially young people, about the humane treatment of animals.
“We are trying to help as much as we can,” said Dr Comroe.
âOverall, COVID has had a positive impact on our housing operations,â said Elizabeth Harfmann, community projects manager for Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control. âWe have seen a decrease in the number of pets brought in, both stray and returned by owners, an increase in adoptions and foster families, and a constant flow of pet owners using our services at low prices. cost (vaccination clinic, sterilization / sterilization). “
Shortly before the peak of the pandemic, the shelter moved to owner-returned pets by appointment only. They were able to give pet owners additional resources to keep or relocate their pets, which reduced intake, she said. This system continues.
Now the number of admissions and the total number of animals have started to increase, Ms. Harfmann said. âAlthough we still have empty cages in many kennels, they are much closer to full capacity than at this time last year. “
The shelter’s partner organizations have helped by taking animals from their facility and placing them in their adoption programs. âThe majority of our partner groups are local in Palm Beach County, but we have several active partners in other areas of Florida, as well as out of state in the Northeast.â As a result, they were able to maintain a 95% save rate for dogs and an 80% save rate for cats, she said. ??