Overcrowding at animal shelters leads to euthanization of healthy pets – NBC Los Angeles

Healthy, adoptable dogs at Southern California animal shelters are being euthanized due to overcrowding and shelter managers say the problem will persist unless more funds are allocated to help alleviate the issues.

As Southern California residents continue to grapple with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, leaders in the Southland’s animal shelters say more and more pet owners are surrendering their animal companions due to costs.

“People are having a hard time keeping their pets because of the economy, because of the increased cost of caring for pets,” said Marcia Mayeda of the Los Angeles County Animal Care.

And while more pets are being surrendered, more animal shelters are having to make the difficult decision to euthanize adoptable animals to make more space. The economy is only part of the issue contributing to overcrowding at animal shelters.

According to Mayeda, SoCal is experiencing a shortage of veterinarians.

“It’s more difficult for (pet owners) to get a veterinarian to get their pets spayed, or they can’t afford it,” she said. This is leading to an increase in backyard breeding, which further contributes to over-population at shelters.

“A lot of people started getting into breeding of animals and people who really didn’t know what they were doing,” Mayeda said. “Again, more unwanted puppies end up in shelters, along with seniors and dogs that are sick.”

Some of the hardest-hit shelters in Los Angeles County include Lancaster and Palmdale. According to Mayeda, the county’s Palmdale animal shelter needs more staff and 80 more kennels to meet the demand of the animals it receives. However, the county’s limited funds have made it impossible to obtain those feats.

“Our Palmdale care center wasn’t really built large enough for what they needed,” Mayeda said. “It was built as big as it could be with the money that was available at the time.”

With so many animals arriving daily at these shelters, the burden falls on the staff to decide which dogs will have to be euthanized in order to make room for new animals.

“When you are already over capacity and you get 20 dogs and 30 cats, what do you do, right?” said Nikole Bresciani, President of the Inland Valley Humane Society & SPCA. “There is really compassion fatigue and burnout.”

It’s an issue that shelter managers say makes them and their team feel villainized.

“Nobody gets into animal welfare because we’re hoping to euthanize an animal. That’s a by-product of a lot of issues,” Bresciani said.

“To be in this business, you have to make a hard decision in getting overcrowded and then the spread of disease,” said Madeline Bernstein, President of spcaLA.

In an effort to prevent an animal from being euthanized, LA County Animal Care said it now sends two 24-hour notices for dogs at risk of euthanasia. The goal is to give volunteers and social media influencers a chance to share those dogs’ image online in hopes an adoption will be made before their scheduled euthanization.

While the county works to find solutions to prevent animal euthanizations, LA County Animal Care is sharing as many resources and information as it can to help people keep their pets. They advise all pet parents to spay or neuter their animal companions and to visit its website for more information.

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