Pet shelters overwhelmed by COVID pet repercussions

Blanca Aguilar meets Rex at Petapalooza’s adoption event at Wheeler Historic Farm in Murray on Saturday. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

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MURRAY — Dede Minardi said there’s a huge need for people to help care for abandoned animals, either by adopting them or adopting them.

“This year is ridiculous. There are too many animals and not enough people,” she said.

Minardi, who works with CAWS, Community Animal Welfare Society, believes the problem stems from the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in the number of people with pets who have ended up not being able to care for them. them in the long term. She said people would just leave the animals – outside or inside – when they moved. Many animals also need medical attention. She said they were doing the best they could right now with the resources they had.

On Saturday, CAWS and other organizations gathered at Wheeler Historic Farm in Murray for Petapalooza, where the goal was to adopt 150 pets into homes and have fun with their pets.

Minardi said CAWS places about 1,300 cats and dogs with foster families each year. She said they are the oldest and largest foster rescue in the state and help pets primarily in the Salt Lake Valley. They have about 50 families taking care of cats and more taking care of dogs.

She encouraged people to adopt instead of buying pets, pointing out that any animal someone probably wants can be found at a shelter and will come already spayed or spayed and vaccinated, allowing a future owner to save even more money. She also said that when adopting a rescue, there is more information available about how the animal acts in a home so a future pet owner can be better informed.

This year is ridiculous. There are too many animals and not enough people.

–Dede Minardi, Community Humane Society

Minardi cares for cats because she says they provide companionship and are easy to care for, especially compared to dogs. She said people should have their cats spayed or neutered, which helps their health and the environment as well as preventing an increase in stray cats.

CAWS always needs volunteers to foster pets, Minardi said. The foster family helps two animals, she said, by bringing one into a home and the other into its place in the shelter, and that increases the chances of the animal being seen and adopted. It’s also a good way to try out a pet before you buy it.

Callista Pearson of Salt Lake County Animal Services said this was the seventh time they’ve hosted a Petapalooza, but the turnout this time was higher than any other year.

Pearson said during the pandemic many pets came into homes, which at the time was fine. However, since this was during a time when veterinary practices and animal trainers had limited availability or were closed, most of these animals were not neutered or trained, which led to even more problems with the animals they currently have in the shelter.

She said they refer to some dogs as “COVID puppies,” who are now adult dogs who have behavioral issues and still need training.

Scarlet, 9, stares at a strange-looking dog as she visits Petapalooza with her owner Stephanie Smith at Wheeler Historic Farm in Murray on Saturday.
Scarlet, 9, stares at a strange-looking dog as she visits Petapalooza with her owner Stephanie Smith at Wheeler Historic Farm in Murray on Saturday. (Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

One thing that is great about the Petapalooza event is that people usually come with their dogs, which is important. Pearson says that if you’re going to adopt, the new pet should first meet other pets in the household to make sure they’ll get along.

Salt Lake County Animal Services hoped to help 150 animals find owners at Saturday’s event, and by two o’clock they had already facilitated the adoption of about 60 animals. Pearson said this event brings the public and pets together with shelters and rescues in a more positive environment.

West Valley Animal Services brought in pets, along with 12 rescue organizations, like CAWS, which house pets with adoptive volunteers.

Pearson said this year the number of pets needing adoption hasn’t slowed down, even though that’s usually the case at this time of year.

“Right now…all of the rescues are complete,” she said. “There are only tons of animals.”

She said people who can’t care for their pets call every day, but there’s just no room.

“For us in our shelter, every animal comes out, we have at least one more animal coming in,” Pearson said. “It will definitely help a lot.”

Pearson has recognized that times are tough and she understands that caring for people must come first. To help families struggling to care for their pets, they provide pet food once a month. There is also a foster care program for people who are between being homeless and having a home to give their pet a place to stay.


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Emily Ashcraft joined as a reporter in 2021. She covers court and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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Jennifer R. Strohm