With inflation causing higher prices for everything from lodging to groceries, animal shelters in Maricopa County are feeling a trickle-down effect: They’re reporting fewer adoptions and more animal surrenders.
Rising home prices and increases in the cost of everyday items go hand in hand with the negative effects of inflation, said Kim Powell, communications officer for Maricopa County Animal Care & Control.
One of the results is a surge in the number of dogs housed at the shelter. Nearly 800 dogs are being sheltered, she said.
“We have more dogs,” Powell said, “and we are over capacity at all times,” which means the shelter goes through donations like toys, towels, blankets and food at a faster rate.
With fewer adoptions, pets stay at the shelter longer and employees and volunteers use more resources to meet the animals’ needs. Those include everything from the number of volunteers necessary to walk dogs each morning to the amount of food they need.
Powel said the rising cost of housing also has forced more homeowners and renters to surrender their dogs.
“People are having to move, and they can’t find an affordable place or apartment that will allow them to have a dog or have a certain breed of dog,” Powell said.
Jennifer Armbruster, senior manager of public relations for the Arizona Humane Society, agreed that one of the biggest factors for the drop in adoptions is a lack of affordable housing.
“Cost and housing are usually the top two reasons why we have animals surrendered,” she said. “We are in a time where we are at very high capacity.”
Armbruster said the nonprofit shelter is on track to take in more than 20,000 pets this year, the highest in more than a decade.
Perry Fanzo, a volunteer at the Arizona Humane Society, said they have had to take on additional tasks.
Fanzo said he and other volunteers have to “walk more animals, we have to clean more cages. I volunteer at a facility where we try to get the dogs out three times a day, and when we have the number of animals we have, that’s tough, particularly in Arizona when it’s 115 degrees outside.”
The hot temperatures add to the increased cost of operating shelters. When Arizona’s temperatures peak during July and August, air conditioning and water costs go up.
Other costs shelters face are basics such as food and cleaning supplies.
Powell said the county shelter has fed more than 63,000 pounds of dog food to sheltered animals, used more than 400 gallons of bleach and detergent for laundry, nearly 9,000 trash bags and 30,000 pairs of gloves to clean up after the animals so far this year.
The breed and size of a dog plays a role in adoption trends, too.
Armbruster said many families are adopting smaller dogs better suited to apartments or smaller homes. That means larger dogs are being left at the shelter for longer periods of time before finding a forever home.
“It could absolutely be connected to a housing instability issue,” she said.
Fanzo also said higher costs could lead to people surrendering large dogs, even purebred German shepherds and huskies.
“The thing I point to is the economy that is causing the problem right now,” Fanzo said.
Both the county shelter and the humane society said the problem is not just in Phoenix, but is affecting shelters throughout the country.
As part of National Adoption Week, the Arizona Humane Society in Maricopa County is charging $20 beginning Monday, July 17, to adopt a pet.
To help animal shelters overcome inflation, Armbruster said people also can volunteer or send in donations.
“A big portion of the reason why we can continue to support the community is through our donors,” Ambruster said.