Animal Shelter Crisis

Around the United States, county animal shelters face overcrowding, disease, limited resources and underfunding. 

One of the biggest issues in animal shelters is overcrowding, some of which comes from people buying puppies or kittens, letting them grow up, then taking them to a shelter when they’re older and not as fun. Pictures and descriptions of dogs and cats posted for adoption on the Madras-based Three Rivers Humane Society website are an example of the problem: Most of the animals listed are older pets, who are “owner surrender,” meaning their previous owners gave them up. Strays are another major reason for overcrowding. 

“We’re really full but that’s not just us around here, that’s actually a nationwide problem right now,” said Three Rivers Humane Society executive director Stephen Drynan, who runs the shelter with Jerilee Drynan, Kim Hawkins and Monica Rendon. The biggest problem they face is “getting adoptions out, being able to pay bills and pay staff.” 

Shelters often ask for donations of money or supplies for the animals from their communities. Three Rivers Humane Society places trailers around Madras to collect cans to make extra money but it’s not nearly enough for what they need to properly care for their animals. 

Drynan said donors have been dropping out because they can’t afford to keep up anymore. But the biggest way people can help a local shelter is by volunteering or donating products, especially food.

Nationally, 25% of animals taken into shelters in 2022 were owner surrender and 49% were strays, according to Shelter Animals Count, a national database. In Oregon, the data shows 35% of pets were dropped off by owners and 35% were strays. Taylor Covington of The Zebra, an insurance company, said “14.1% of dogs are surrendered due to housing issues, the top reason for canines, while more cats are surrendered due to the owner having too many animals (22.6%) than any other reason.” 

In The Humane Society of Oregon 2021 report for expenses, 34% of its $18.9 million budget is spent on animal care and adoptions statewide. These local shelters heavily rely on their communities to keep them running. 

The best way to help is to look into your local animal shelter and offer to volunteer or donate. Even the smallest donation, things like food and close-to-new dog beds are much appreciated. A couple hours a week of volunteering could really help the smaller shelters wherever you live to give the animals the slightest chance at a better life. Reach out to your local animal shelter to offer a hand in volunteering or adopt a pet!