Denver animal welfare organizations faced business growth in the second half of 2021 that was delayed by the initial waves of the pandemic, leaving workers overwhelmed as they faced staff shortages trying to maintain quality animal care.
“There’s usually a somewhat slow season and we’re just not seeing that right now,” Megan Dillmore, shelter manager at the Denver Animal Shelter, said last month. “Now my team is so busy that they are working overtime, almost every day, just trying to do their basic cleaning.”
With more than 310 animals in its care as of Dec. 1, Dillmore said the facility was practically occupied given the number of staff Dillmore said due to a combination of reasons, including an atypical influx of customers and animals in recent years. months. shortage of personnel and increase in the length of stay of animals.
Denver Animal Shelter, a division of the city’s Department of Health and Environment, is an open-entry shelter that offers a variety of services, including reuniting lost pets with their owners, facilitating pet adoptions, and accepting abandoned pets abandoned by owners. to the shelter. .
According to Tracey Koss, client manager, both clients and pets have started coming to the shelter in recent months. For example, in November 2021, the shelter had 400 more transactions than in November 2019, and in December 2021, it had 2,000 more transactions than in December 2019, Koss said.
These transactions include adoptions, pet vaccinations, licenses and permits, store sales, returning lost pets to owners, euthanasia requests, and payments. Koss said the high number of babies in December was due in part to donation letters, as well as a doubling in the number of adoptions in a month compared to December 2019.
However, despite the recent influx of customers, the safe haven cut about 10,000 transactions over the year overall, Koss said. This is because fewer customers visited than usual in early 2021, indicating to Kossu that people have delayed coming until the end of the year due to the pandemic.
“I feel like people are kind of catching up,” Koss said of the recent surge. “Business they weren’t in at the start of the year… now we see them come in and do that business now.”
The Denver League of Dumb Friends, a Colorado-based animal welfare organization, experienced a surge in business starting in the summer of 2021, CEO and President April Steele said, bringing the organization to its power for the first time in a decade with more than 1,500 animals. in his care.
“For us, it all happened at the same time,” Steele said, saying that the animals that would likely show up month after month during a normal year all arrived at the same time during the summer. “We begged everyone to help move on from us.”
While the second half of 2021 saw a boom in business, Steele said the average number of animals the organization has received over the past three years will be fairly typical. “It’s just that it went down for so long (during the pandemic), and then everything happened at once,” she said.
Adoption surge not seen until 2021
Despite the publicized surge in adoptions of “pandemic pets” in 2020, the number of adoptions this year was the lowest in five years based on data from 4,000 shelters, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
In 2021, Denver Animal Sanctuary adopted 700 more people in 2021 than in 2020, according to Koss. There were also more adoptions in the Denver League of Dumb Friends in 2021 than in 2020, according to Steele.
“I think the reason people think there has been an increase is because the demand has gone through the roof. Everyone wanted a pet,” Steele said. “But in fact, the number of adoptions that took place decreased significantly because fewer animals came to us.”
Steele said she believes there are fewer animals in the Denver League of Dumb Friends in 2020 because people’s lives have mostly been put on hold, leaving the animals mostly to stay in their homes with their owners. Koss agreed, saying that fewer animals were lost and donated to the shelter in 2020.
In addition to reduced animal consumption, fewer animals were available for adoption in 2020 due to the COVID-related suspension of elective surgery in Colorado, temporarily preventing neutering and neutering of animals. Steele said the decree to temporarily suspend elective procedures “affects both veterinary and public health.”
“So all spaying and castration stopped for a significant period of time,” Steele said.
When the Humane Society of the South Platte Valley, a small shelter organization based in Littleton that offers neutering and neutering services at its low-cost clinic, was forced to temporarily close its clinic due to COVID-19 related restrictions, it “affected our mission where we couldn’t really serve the community the way we wanted to,” said development manager Mindy Schmidt. Now that the clinic is back up and running, business is booming, Schmidt said.
While the number adopted and given away by the organization was fairly typical, Schmidt said the number of stray animals has increased in recent times.
The number of animals confiscated by the Denver Animal Shelter, typically due to cruelty and neglect, has increased by more than 50% in 2021 compared to 2019, Dillmore said. This is something the shelter team wants to explore in more detail, she said, but the focus is on keeping up with the increased size of the shelter, as the number of animals at the shelter increased by 76% on December 1, 2021. compared to December 1, 2019, Dillmore said.
“Our veterinary team is a little behind on their efforts because they can’t find veterinary technicians to fill the space we have,” Dillmore said.
The impact of staff shortages
Like the Denver Animal Shelter, the Denver League of Dumb Friends also faces a shortage of staff. About 30% of job openings at their public veterinary hospital in Yuma, Steele estimates, are open for an extended period of time, she said.
Staffing is also one of the biggest challenges for the MaxFund Animal Adoption Center, a no-murder shelter in Denver, according to manager Selina Davison. According to her, after the start of the pandemic, the staff of the center increased from 32 to 12 people.
“We’re still trying to get out of this,” Davison said.
On December 11, MaxFund held the grand opening of their new Meow Manor cat shelter in Denver. The new shelter is ready to accept about 80 cats, but because MaxFund is understaffed, plans to house the cats in the building have been put on hold, chief executive Kathy Gaines said.
“At the moment, we are struggling to get enough veterinarians and veterinary technicians for our core business,” said Gaines, who hopes to get the cats to the new facility before the end of the first quarter of 2022.
In addition to unpredictable business waves and staff shortages, Steele and Dillmore of the Denver Animal Shelter have reported an increase in the average length of stay for animals, that is, the number of days an animal stays at the shelter before being adopted. At the Denver Animal Shelter, the average length of stay for animals increased by nearly four days, from 11.6 to 15.3, Dillmore said, helping the shelter reach capacity.
“The entire shelter is coming together to provide daily care for the animals because my team alone can’t, can’t do that,” Dillmore said.
While it is not known what 2022 could bring to these animal welfare organizations, every shelter spokesperson said that community support is essential to their operations, sharing that those who adopt, raise, volunteer and donate to their organizations help them provide quality care.
“We are grateful to our community,” Steele said. “We wouldn’t be as accessible and efficient as we are now if we didn’t have support.”