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St. Louis pet shelters are full

Ginger, a pup that appears to be a Beagle-mix, on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, at the APA Adoption Center in Brentwood.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Ginger, a pup that appears to be a Beagle-mix, on Nov. 9 at the APA Adoption Center in Brentwood

If you are considering adopting a pet this holiday season, now is the time. St. Louis-area animal shelters are seeing a sharp increase in pet surrenders and stray animals at their facilities. Most are at full capacity.

“The problem is nationwide,” said Weng Horak, CEO and founder of Care STL Adoption Center. Recently, the shelter analyzed why it is seeing a spike in animal surrenders.

Horak said 2020 was a high year for pet intakes at Care STL. "We took in 1,892 animals," she said.

But this year there was a sudden increase in animal surrenders. The Midtown St. Louis adoption center received 2,797 surrendered, stray, and confiscated pets between January and December 2022.

“These animals are on the streets, brought in by either someone who found them or one of our animal control officers,” said Horak. “And those are just in the city of St. Louis, because that's our focus.”

In St. Louis, Horak is noticing a trend of pets coming in from owners facing eviction. Care STL’s numbers show that out of the 2,797 animals the shelter took in, about 400 of them were by owners facing eviction.

“We have seen a lot of emotional surrenders here this year,” said Horak. “One family didn’t have a place to sleep and didn’t want to get rid of their cat.”

Inflation is likely another reason pet owners are struggling to afford to take care of their animals. Government data show the price of vet care went up 10% in the past year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that between 1997 and 2022, pet food prices increased an average 2.18% per year.

Missouri Humane Society is not at capacity, but Laura Keller of the adoption center is noticing many pets coming from people who have tried taking them to other shelters.

“The solution is not to immediately surrender, but at least call the shelter and talk to us. We can give you other options,” said Horak.

Care STL has offered to help with vet care. The adoption center also has a pet food pantry for pet owners who cannot afford food.

“Our city has put together resources for people who are getting evicted,” said Horak. “Pet owners can always contact us if they need something.”

With the dangerous cold weather in the forecast later this week, Keller is urging anyone who sees an abused, neglected, or stray pet to call the Missouri Humane Society, which can take in animals 24/7.

Horak said Care STL will provide food, blankets, care and crates for anyone who can bring an animal inside during extreme weather.

Britny Cordera is a poet and journalist based in St. Louis and is currently serving as a newsroom intern at St. Louis Public Radio.

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