Pet rescues impacted by holiday season

Published 6:34 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Each year, local animal rescues and shelters take in hundreds of abused, abandoned, neglected, and surrendered pets. All of them witness the severity of animal welfare issues in the area and some observe an increase in homeless pets after the holidays.

In 2022, the City of Greenville Animal Shelter received 621 cats and dogs. Through local donations which help pay for food, shelter, medical needs and spaying or neutering, the shelter works to find local adopters, to reunite lost pets with owners, and to transport others across the country to rescues where the animals are more likely to find new homes.

“We primarily do rescue, and send animals to rescue centers in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin,” said Butler County Humane Society coordinator Kimberly Matthews. “Nobody wants to adopt them here in Alabama and pay $100 for a dog when they can get one free on the side of the road. But we spay or neuter them and give them their shots.”

Matthews said the society focuses on rescue and works with the Greenville Animal Shelter for adoptions. The society sees a steady stream of pets needing rescue, with an uptick in the spring and early winter.

According to Tiffany Howington with Troy Animal Rescue Project, rescues commonly experience higher numbers of surrendered or abandoned pets in January and February, after pets are given as Christmas gifts and that “gift” wasn’t expected or didn’t meet expectations.

“People adopt puppies and kittens during the holidays,” Howington said. “Unfortunately, the return rates are ridiculously high for pets adopted during Christmas when people adopt them for other people, or the receiver doesn’t know they are getting a pet. We had a tremendous number of surrenders at that time.”

According to Howington, TARP receives pets from owners who plan to travel for the holiday and cannot or will not arrange for boarding and care while they are away. In those cases, owners chose to surrender or even abandon unwanted pets rather than find them new homes.

“Because of the sheer fact that people don’t have anybody to care for pets or they didn’t plan ahead, they drop them off somewhere or call us to surrender them,” Howington said. “A lot of puppies end up on the side of the road because people don’t want to take care of them. It’s kind of a vicious cycle during the holidays.”

COVID-19, severe weather, and an area’s economic situation all impact the number of pets needing rescue and also donations, adoptions, and volunteer efforts, Howington said. During a recent freezing weather event, TARP took in every animal they encountered needing a place to stay warm.

Animal Tails Rescue near Luverne encountered more than 800 pets needing rescue in 2021. According to President Kim Kent, the organization transports dogs to rescue partners for adoptions and attempts to find local homes for cats needing placement.

“We see a lot of surrenders,” Kent said. “People get a puppy and once it gets big or starts chewing on something, they want to bring it back. Others get a puppy free, then decide they are moving and can’t keep it.”

And while rescues and shelters work to help animals in Butler and Crenshaw Counties, no organizations exist to help animals in Lowndes County.

“We try to find a local home or farm to keep neglected animals until we get the case cleared in court,” said Lowndes County Sheriff Chris West. “We’ve got a problem, and we’ve shown a need for [a shelter] but our county government hasn’t shown an interest in it. Mostly we see horses and dogs. We pick them up and try to find homes for them, but a lot of times they have to be euthanized because they’re in such bad shape.”

Matthews said individuals can help to address the problem by spaying or neutering their pets.

Pet rescues and shelters rely on donations and volunteers to operate, Howington added. Most welcome donations of dollars, food, bedding, toys, or cleaning products and also count on volunteers willing to help walk, play with, and care for sheltered animals.

For more information, visit troyanimalrescueproject.org, call the Greenville Animal Shelter at (334) 382-7806, or call Animal Tails Rescue at (334) 508-2027.