As Westport shelter sees more animals abandoned due to economic issues, foster program aims to help

A typical day for Bliss Kern involves making sure all departments at the Connecticut Humane Society animal shelter in Westport are running smoothly – medical admissions, adoptions and more.

But recently, she’s taken on an additional role: fostering a gray tabby cat named Percival.

“It’s actually part of our crisis hosting program, which is a very limited program that we’re able to help with. And a lot of it is about housing issues of various kinds,” he said. she declared.

The crisis reception program, launched last year, is one of the limited ways the shelter is trying to help pet parents through difficult situations, including housing instability. Percival’s landlord’s house was sold and she couldn’t find a new place to rent that both allowed a cat and suited a person’s income. The shelter stepped in and promised to help the cat while its owner got back on her feet. But more than three months later, no on-budget accommodation has come up and now Percival is up for adoption as he lives in Kern’s corner office at the shelter.

“He’s a 12-year-old boy, a big cat,” but Kern said he still had cum, slapping here and there between hugs, “He’s used to being the center of the ‘Warning.”

Admissions data for the shelter from the start of the year to mid-August shows more people giving up animals like Pervical for financial reasons, compared to years before the pandemic. These former pet owners cited abandoning their pets due to financial issues ranging from evictions, foreclosures, landlord disputes, relocations, lack of means, and more.

From January to mid-August 2022, the Westport shelter saw over 35% of animals abandoned for housing or financial reasons. Less than 30% of animals were returned for the same reasons in 2019.

Barriers to Housing

Kern said while the shelter doesn’t require a detailed reason to visit, Percival is a great example of how rising housing costs and displacement are affecting not only two-legged residents, but also their friends at home. four legs.

After all, about 70% of American households have a pet.

“So any stats you get for displaced humans will also impact animals,” Bliss said.

In Connecticut, more than 50,000 renters said they would be very or somewhat likely to have to vacate their homes in the next two months due to eviction. And around 20,000 homeowners said they would be very or somewhat likely to have to leave their homes in the next two months due to foreclosure. That according to the most recent housing survey by the US Census.

Ryan Caron King


Connecticut Public

Percival the cat gives Connecticut Humane Society District Director Bliss Kern a paw. Percival, who was dropped off at the shelter by a family struggling with housing instability, now keeps Kern company in her office as she works through the day. He will end up participating in the shelter’s adoption program because his owner will not be able to take him back after being kicked out of her home.

Kern said landlords who add hundreds to annual housing costs in pet rental fees aren’t helping.

“Regardless of economic status, the housing situation in Connecticut is tough,” Kern said. “People might find something for themselves and their kids and not be able to afford their pet’s rent, a pet deposit, there’s a whole host of things that can go into that.”

Financial and logistical challenges with housing have always been one of the most common reasons for giving up pets, according to Kern. Either way, she said the shelter is there to help and remind people that giving up a pet doesn’t make someone a bad person.

“We have people who live in their car with their two children and their dog, would you suggest parents should stay in the car with their children as it makes them a bad person for them to abandon their dog to a shelter who they knew they could care for, provide medical care, and bring him into a new family? Kern added.

How to help?

While the hope is to help as many people as possible, Kern said resources are limited. The Crisis Foster Program takes animals on a case-by-case basis and places them in available foster homes for approximately one month, but can be extended if necessary. Those interested in taking advantage of the program should apply.

Every day the animal is away from its owner, the animal may be in distress, so there is always a question of whether adoption might be the best option in the end, she added.

Overall, Kern said the shelter attracts more people asking for help keeping their pets than for giving them up, and the foster program is one way to do that momentarily.

“What needs help are people who want to keep their pets but don’t have the financial flexibility.”

For more information on the Crisis Intake program, visit

Connecticut Humane Society

Ryan Caron King


Connecticut Public

Connecticut Humane Society District Director Bliss Kern takes a short break from her emails to sniff out gray tabby tiger Percival. Percival, who was dropped off at the shelter by her landlord who was suffering from housing instability, now keeps Kern company in her office as she works through the day.

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Jennifer R. Strohm