top of page

Articles by Fran

Printed monthly in The Union newspaper, Nevada County

Logo (just Hearts) copy.png

 Sammie’s Friends Shelter overflowing with dogs and cats

A nationwide crisis of overcrowded animal shelters is occurring, and Sammie’s Friends is seriously affected. Our dog kennels have been full for many months, and in March we had to put dogs in crates in the hallways and bathrooms to accommodate all of the dogs we had taken in in seizures or as strays. Now, we are in kitten season and have available for adoption about a hundred cats and kittens, either at the shelter or in foster homes. Other local animal welfare organizations are similarly impacted. This overcrowding problem is not limited to cats and dogs, as Sammie’s Friends is currently housing horses, a litter of pigs, goats, chickens and a peacock.

When we analyze the reasons for this, several causes emerge, including the exponentially rising costs of veterinary service and pet food. Both continue to increase over 10% annually, rising disproportionately to the Consumer Price Index. Over the period July 2022-2023, human medical and food costs only increased 4.1% and 3.2%, respectively. Many pet owners are unable to afford the increasing costs of pet ownership or are unable to find rental housing that allows them to keep pets.

Why are the costs of veterinary care increasing? Many factors are cited, including a difficulty in finding veterinarians and staff, the increased costs of employees and running a business and their own increased costs of veterinary supplies. Fewer individuals are entering veterinary school, so this shortage will probably become more pronounced in the future. In addition, small privately owned veterinary practices are being replaced by practices that are owned by corporations or private equity investors, who have a higher focus on profitability.

Another factor in overcrowding is the Covid pandemic, as many individuals acquired pets that now are being abandoned in great numbers as the adopters return to the workforce. Sammie’s and other shelters are increasingly receiving strays and seized dogs that are unsocialized and require additional training to enhance their adoptability. These shelters are usually not full of small appealing dogs- many of these dogs are large dogs that represent unpopular breeds for adoption, including Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and Dobermans. Sammie’s does have a behaviorist on staff that evaluates and works with dogs that need training for adoptability.

Another related consequence of shelter overcrowding and lack of resources is a current California insurance crisis, as shelters across the state are losing liability coverage. Luckily, our county has helped us with coverage for dog bite risk, but unless liability insurance coverage options become available in the future, all private shelters are at risk of having to close.

One unfortunate result of shelter overcrowding is the inability of shelters to accept animals turned in by their owners, which California shelters are not legally required to accept. Sammie’s Friends shelter currently has hundreds of dogs and cats on a waiting list for owners to turn them in. One of the huge issues is owner surrenders are outpacing adoption applications by more than 5 to 1. Pre-Covid Sammie’s received between 160 – 200 owner surrender requests annually, and we now receive more than 160 – 200 requests each month.

What can owners who can’t keep their pets do? Sammie’s offers pet owners courtesy listings on our website to connect owners with potential adopters. This offers additional benefits for the animals and their owners, because animals almost always present better to adopters in their home environments than they do in the often chaotic and noisy shelter environment.

Article Archives

bottom of page