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Animal Rescue Groups See Greater Demand During Crisis

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It's estimated that Americans own 78 million dogs and 85 million cats, but many animal shelters are seeing an increase in people giving up their pets due to challenges caused by the pandemic. (Adobe Stock)
It's estimated that Americans own 78 million dogs and 85 million cats, but many animal shelters are seeing an increase in people giving up their pets due to challenges caused by the pandemic. (Adobe Stock)
April 22, 2020

DELMONT, S. D. -- Some people deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic are making the heartbreaking decision to give their pets up for adoption. One South Dakota shelter is doing all it can to take care of these animals and accommodate their owners.

Teresa Richardson, founder of E.T. Farms Animal Rescue in Delmont, estimates her shelter has seen a 40% to 50% increase in people surrendering pets since the start of the crisis.

She tells pet owners she can take care of them until the owners are back on their feet, but that isn't always the case.

"If they say, 'We've got to move out-of-state because we lost our job,' or, 'We've had medical issues and we have to go home,' they may totally surrender," she says.

Richardson adds that her team has been discouraged by the increase in calls it has received about people abandoning their pets. She says it isn't safe for the animals to abandon them, and it uses up more of the resources of shelters or animal control agencies to handle these situations.

Animal rescue groups say there is a silver lining, however -- the pandemic also has prompted increases in applications for pet adoptions and pet foster care, since more families are indoors and want to lift their spirits with a new cat or dog.

Richardson says she always tries to let the previous owners know when their pet has been adopted, as a way to help them cope with the tough choice they had to make.

"They can see that the dog is well cared for and it is in a good loving home," she says, "and that kind of makes them feel a little bit better, knowing that their animal is cared for."

She notes her operation is working alongside a handful of other shelters to provide relief for each other if their resources are stretched too far.

Across the country, many Humane Society chapters are either temporarily closed or offering scaled-back services, including virtual adoptions.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - SD