Adopt a cat or dog for free from Bonita or Carlsbad shelters in August

Expectant pet parents can adopt a pet for free at San Diego County Animal Shelters in Bonita and Carlsbad this month.

The county is waiving all adoption fees in August as part of “Clear the Shelters,” a month-long nationwide program to find homes for animals in shelters. Leave fees apply to all pets including dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and guinea pigs. Fees are generally $100 for puppies and $75 for adult dogs, $75 for kittens and $60 for adult cats, said Kelly Campbell, director of animal services for San Diego County.

The effort is important this year because the shelters receive more animals than they can adopt. Since May 1, shelters across the county have received 1,103 dogs and 1,022 cats, but only 785 dogs and 562 cats have been adopted or retrieved by owners. This creates a backlog when animals spend more than a month at the shelter.

“Right now we’re over 30 days for the average length of stay,” Campbell said. “Some have been there longer. … We would really like to get to a point where it’s two weeks or less.

Longer stays are stressful for animals and strain shelter capacities, she said. The overflow of animals happens every year, as shelters fill with a “tidal wave of kittens or an influx of puppies” every summer after breeding season, Campbell said.

Changes in pet ownership during the pandemic have also affected adoption trends. Early on, shelter officials made appeals to potential pet owners, and many people working remotely during the lockdown took in new animals. After that initial rush for pets, demand dried up, Campbell said.

“We took two years of adoptions evenly distributed over time and crammed them into a month-long period,” she said.

Some people brought pets back to shelters after returning to work in person, she said. Others suffered job loss or other financial hardship during the pandemic and could no longer support the animals. Shelters are now full of medium to large adult dogs, she said.

“So if there’s anyone out there who’s interested in a dog that’s not going to teethe on your shoes and maybe doesn’t need to be house trained, they’re willing to bond like a puppy,” Campbell said.

Animal services are also looking for people to take in pets while they wait for a new home, she said. To see available pets, go to the county’s pet adoption page.

The San Diego Humane Society is also offering reduced adoption fees for cats, kittens, adult dogs and small animals this month under the “Clear the Shelters” program.

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Jennifer R. Strohm