Animal shelters at ‘crisis level’ as people unable to afford pets

At least one no-kill shelter considering putting down animals

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As the cost of living continues to rise in BC, more and more people are surrendering their pets. Now, some Lower Mainland shelters are nearing capacity.

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The BC SPCA says it has resorted to expanding its outreach services by offering residents more free pet food in hopes of being able to keep animals in the care of their owners.

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“We’ve definitely seen an increase in need. It started during the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued to research every year since,” said spokesperson Lorie Chortyk.

In BC, the prices of shelter, food, clothing and fuel have risen sharply. While the rest of Canada’s inflation rates have cooled in recent months, BC’s level has remained unchanged at 6.2 per cent.

As a result, the Langley Animal Protection Society is describing its shelter’s current lack of space at a “crisis level.”

Paws for Hope, a Maple Ridge charity that offers subsidized veterinary care for low-income families and temporary pet foster care for people experiencing crises, says demand for its services has quadrupled.

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“We’re receiving calls from families that wouldn’t qualify because they don’t meet that low-income threshold, but because of the cost of living they no longer have a disposable income for veterinary care,” said executive director Kathy Powelson.

Sidney (left) and Morely are available for adoption from the SPCA.
Sidney (left) and Morely are available for adoption from the SPCA. Photo by BC SPCA /Handouts

A lack of affordable, pet-friendly rentals also means more people are being forced to make an “incredibly heartbreaking decision” between giving up their pet or becoming homeless.

“I’ve been working in this field for 12 years now and have never seen it like this. If things don’t change, one of our no-kill shelter partners says it’s beginning to consider euthanization to free up space,” said Powelson.

In hopes of securing more homes, the BC SPCA is offering 50 per cent off adoption fees at all 41 of its locations this weekend.

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“While our first choice is to keep pets and their families together, many people — at no fault of their own — can no longer afford to care for them,” Chortyk said.

The SPCA is encouraging owners not to feel embarrassed to ask the shelter for help or to surrender their animals.

“We come from the point of view that people want to do the right thing for their pets. There are all sorts of circumstances where people aren’t able for them, such as the loss of a job,” said Chortyk.

“If you bring your pet to us and give us as much information about its health history, including what it likes and needs we are able to re-home them with a suitable family much quicker than if you abandon the animal elsewhere.”

In the last year alone, the animal welfare organization says it has cared for nearly 16,000 animals, ranging from dogs, cats, horses and hamsters.

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