Local shelters feel pandemic strain
Last updated 1/30/2021 at 2:31pm
Like everyone else, local animal shelters are feeling the effects of the worldwide pandemic.
The number of animal intakes has increased in the past year while adoptions have decreased, according to officials with Clovis Animal Control.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the pandemic," said Lt. James Gurule with the Clovis Police Department, which oversees the city shelter. "A lot of people are out of work and struggling to pay bills. They are struggling to feed themselves, let alone animals, and I think that has a big impact on why we are not able to adopt animals out of our facilities as well as in the past."
Gurule and animal control supervisor Marty Martinez said there were 290 adoptions in 2019 and 248 in 2020, with no cat adoptions in 2020.
Gurule said he believes another contributing factor to low adoptions is the fact that people are having to go through more of a process to view animals. Appointments must be made, and masks must be worn.
As far as the increase in stray animals, Gurule said he believes a large contributing factor is that people do not tag their animals.
"We run into those issues where we pick up animals who have an owner, but we have no way of identifying them," Gurule said. "We would ask that people get their animals registered and tagged. That will go a long way to help our city prevent the large intake of animals we have."
Sgt. Nickolas Laurenz, public information officer for the Portales Police Department, said while animal intakes there have also increased, the number of adoptions at the Portales shelter has been steady.
"There has been a bit of an uptake in the amount of animals brought in who are strays, but it's not at an extreme level," Laurenz said. "Usually what we've seen in the past and what seems to be currently following this trend, it's usually involving the time of the year and the temperature. People will bring in stray animals, because they are more concerned that the animals will be cold or hungry, whereas in the summer, they assume they'll be fine. So, we usually see an uptick in the winter months."
One of the biggest impacts for both shelters, according to officials, has been increased workload for staff. They are not allowed to use volunteers due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"Some of the administrators just had to pick up responsibilities that were normally not theirs," Gurule said. For example, volunteers would clean kennels and walk the animals.
"It impacted the streets more than anything," he said. "It put more of a focus on the animals already in containment versus going out and picking up more animals."
Although their animal control officers have done a great job keeping up with the workload, said Gurule and Laurenz, the shelters will welcome volunteers back with open arms when the time comes.
In the meantime, local animal rescue groups have been a huge help, both men said. Thirty local rescue organizations can pull animals' tags from the Clovis animal shelter to find foster or adoptive homes. Both men said if people cannot currently adopt, the best way they can help with the stray animal problem is to donate to these organizations.
Neither shelter has put any animals down in the past year due to these organizations, according to the officers.
"When the governor first closed the state down, it eliminated volunteering animals to the shelter, so we would refer people to the High Plains Humane Society and the local rescue groups. People who couldn't take care of their animals during the pandemic would release them to the humane society, and they would post them on their Facebook page," Martinez said.
"That was a large concern for a lot of these adoption places - making sure these animals had a place to go," Gurule said.