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Covid Didn’t Help the Problem (Blog #11)

"Currently, shelters are in crisis mode, with overcrowding and lagging adoptions." "Pet overpopulation seems to be increasing, leading to increased shelter euthanasia for the first time in many years." This is according to Simone Guerios, a clinical assistant professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida and lead author of a 2022 study conducted by the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida. View original study here.

Researchers estimate that there were three million fewer spay/neuter animal surgeries done during covid. They add that progress made over several decades to control dog and cat overpopulation is now at risk. (I would argue that there has been a greater focus on fixing dogs than cats.) When these surgeries did not happen for our community cats, it hit hard, leading to a population explosion that reversed years of hard work. This is compounded by the national shortage in veterinarians and staff. The findings of this study are from over 200 US clinics from years 2019 to 2021.

This is all very true. Appointments for affordable spay and neuter surgeries are difficult to get and the waiting lists often extend months out. This will lead to more dogs and cats. The effect on community cats and trap-neuter-return (TNR) spay/neuter surgeries is even more profound. In order to provide more surgeries for owned and shelter animals, many clinics allotted fewer spots for TNR surgeries. Some clinics even discontinued TNR surgeries altogether.

While this helps dogs, cats again, draw the short straw. The implementation of the Capacity 4 Care animal sheltering model, of which managed intake is a big part, pushes shelters to intake fewer cats. (This also means helping fewer cats.) I have stated the sheltering world’s reasoning for this in previous blogs, none of which I buy into. I hope you don’t either. In fact, that is a huge reason I started this blog - to speak from the animals’ side. Wouldn’t you think shelters would be driven by doing the best for all animals and not by their aspirations to achieve no-kill status? One does not necessarily lead to the other.

This brings up another point. While reduction in spay and neuter surgery capabilities certainly contributed to today’s overpopulation crisis, it is not the only contributing factor. Enter managed intake.

Total intake in our US animal shelters rose through 2015 but remained stagnant from then until 2017 when shelter admissions began their overall decline with 2020 showing a drastically lowered intake. 2021 intake remained steady with 2020. 2022 showed slightly higher intake but far from 2019 levels. This simply means that shelter intake had already begun to show the effect of managed intake PRIOR to 2020 and covid. The lower intake was NOT the result of fewer dogs and cats. It is the result of following a flawed sheltering model that pushes for shelters to lower intake.


Beth Frank is founder/president of Community Cats United, Inc, Fixfinder and Proactive Animal Sheltering. Beth has spent endless hours researching animal sheltering and analyzing shelter data from all over the US, including over 400 shelters. Click here to follow Proactive Animal Sheltering on Facebook.

Community Cats United, Inc. is a CommUNITY of over 96,000 including in all 50 US states and 127 countries.

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