Humane society faces post-pandemic dog glut

Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 3:37 PM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Humane societies and animal shelters across the country reported a big uptick in adoptions at the beginning of the pandemic. But now those numbers have slowed and it’s leaving one local shelter scrambling.

The kennels are full at the Humane Society of Chittenden County in South Burlington, a nearly unheard-of issue at the shelter, which is often hard-pressed to have dogs and cats in residence for very long.

“We’re not seeing a lot of people that are interested in adopting a dog right now -- which is rare. We usually have a pretty consistent flow,” said the HSCC’s Erin Alamed. She says there are fewer adopters looking for pups right now, slowing the flow of empty kennels. “We’re seeing this kind of across the country, it’s not just us, it’s not just our area. We’re seeing a lot of shelters, rescues across the country that are seeing a lot of dogs that need to come in and a lot of dogs not going out.”

HSCC also contracts with other local animal control branches to take in dogs found nearby. Because they have to take in those dogs, and dogs aren’t being adopted, it’s created a backlog. And in addition to that, dogs are being returned to the shelter with a long list of behavioral issues. While they can’t be 100% sure, Alamed says it’s likely, in part, from pandemic isolation.

“Some people still probably in their homes, not around a lot of people, maybe not having a lot of people over -- that directly affects a lot of dogs as well, a lot of animals,” Alamed said.

Of the 17 full kennels at HSCC, a lot of the dogs are working through behavioral concerns. For example, when WCAX visited, we couldn’t get video of most of them and couldn’t look them in the eye or raise voices. That’s because under-socialization and a lack of stimulation have left them anxious, reactive to other dogs and people, and protective of resources, like food.

“So, when they are seeing change in their environment, when someone moves or someone comes in that’s new, that’s living with them and there’s a change, they can have kind of a bigger reaction to that,” Alamed said.

As for what owners can do -- instead of surrendering their dog -- Alamed suggests hiring a trainer, although she adds that can also be expensive. HSCC suggests positive re-enforcement training with basics that can easily be looked up online. Or, give them a call. “It might of been unavoidable in some ways, but I think now people can have the resources -- and we do know this now. So, if anyone is out there struggling with their dog, we’re always happy to speak with you on the phone and offer you different tips and tricks. We’re always happy to help,” Alamed said.

She says this issue is specific to dogs and that cats are being snatched up without any issues. In an effort to help find these dogs homes and free up kennel space, HSCC is offering 50% off dog adoption fees now through Saturday.