The director of Stanislaus County’s animal shelter said he believes the end of the COVID-19 emergency may have contributed to overcrowding at the shelter.
“With COVID-19, so many people adopted a pet,” said Vaughn Maurice, executive director of the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency. “They were able to work from home and wanted a companion at home.”
For many of those who returned to the office or work sites, the journey with pet ownership came to an end.
While officials can’t fully explain the bottleneck at the shelter on Cornucopia Way, there doesn’t appear to be an immediate solution. The shelter has capacity for 165 dogs but is housing more than 200.
Maurice didn’t have statistics on the apparent trend of pet owners who gave up their furry friends after COVID-19 faded. He said he’s heard some people talk about it, but many animals are not brought back to the shelter. They are dumped or dropped off in locations where they are more likely to be rescued, Maurice said.
He noted that many look like they were cared for well.
“We don’t know the exact back story,” Maurice said. “Most of our dogs — and cats, too — were found as strays.”
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals cited polling in mid-2021 that 20% of households in the United States had acquired cats or dogs since the start of the COVID crisis and the vast majority intended to keep the pets. But as COVID restrictions were lifted, news outlets reported widespread pet abandonment and an adoption crisis.
The Stanislaus Animal Services Agency had an unusually high number of dog adoptions: 1,993 in 2020. New adoptions dropped off to 1,397 in 2021 and 1,371 in 2022.
Maurice also said that making appointments to spay or neuter animals was much more difficult amid the pandemic, leading to more puppies and kittens.
According to the director, Stanislaus County’s shelter has statistically remained a no-kill facility, even as free adoption events and temporary suspensions of animal intake have failed to relieve the crowding. He gave credit to relationships with 114 animal rescues and other shelters that can accept animals and help with adoptions.
Dogs taken into the shelter are assigned to a green color code for 14 days and may be in the yellow group for another two weeks. From 15 to 20 dogs are on the more urgent red list for adoption. Dogs kept for a prolonged time in a shelter develop bad behavior, either too timid or too aggressive, Maurice said.
It’s motivation for the shelter staff to keep the adoption process rolling.
Maurice said adopting a pet from the shelter is easy. The adoption fee is $100 for dogs and $60 for cats. The animals adopted are current on their shots and are altered.
People can check out volunteer opportunities at the Stanislaus Animal Services shelter or other county departments at www.stancounty.com. To sponsor an adoption, click on the “donate” button on the shelter website, express your purpose in the notes section and make a $100 donation.