The number of stray and owner-surrendered pets — many due to housing instability — has soared at the SICSA Pet Adoption and Wellness Center, and the shelter is steeling itself for more as an extended evictions moratorium is set to expire in October.
SICSA’s intake this year is 66% higher than at the same point in 2020. And with a current waiting list of 250 animals, the demand has quickly outpaced the center’s ability to care for them, despite a 56% increase in adoptions, said Nora Vondrell, president and CEO.
“It seems like an impossible game of Tetris — only it’s not an amusement,” she said. “There are lives at stake.”
During the week beginning Aug. 9, SICSA had more than 15 requests for surrender or placement in its Safe Pet program as a direct result of housing issues, according to SICSA, which stands for the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals.
The shelter in Washington Twp. is pleading for people willing to join its program to foster animals — primarily dogs — so owners can be reunited with pets once they’re back on solid ground, said Eryn Carper, SICSA’s intake and community resources manager.
Carper said a woman evicted recently didn’t want to abandon her indoor cats to the outdoors, and one family living in their car was unable to care for two dogs.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” Carper said. “These folks need their pets, their pets need them, they don’t want to give them up. But their options are few and far between right now.”
Carper said it’s difficult to determine if the pandemic impacted a decision to relinquish a pet, but the roaring local housing market has been cited by some who were evicted when landlords decided to sell. And a tight rental market exacerbates the problem, she said.
“It’s hard for people to find pet friendly housing in the area, in any area,” she said.
To meet current needs and prepare for any post-evictions moratorium demand, SICSA could use at least 30 more people to provide a “safety net,” especially for large dogs whose owners may need three to six months to get housing needs met.
Due to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order, now extended to Oct. 3, evictions have been limited during the pandemic. But typically, between 4% and 5% of renters annually have been subject to an eviction action, though not all lead to removal, according to housing advocates.
Since 2015, the vacancy rate for the region had hovered between 6% and 8% but dipped to 4.8% at the beginning of this year, according to a study by CBRE, a commercial real estate services and investment firm. The study also showed the average rent in the Dayton region is about $890 per month, up about 4.5% from historical increases of about 2.5%.
The Montgomery County Animal Resource Center has been at capacity since April, which means more dogs wind up at SICSA, Vondrell said. Of 286 rescue transfer dogs taken in this year at SICSA, about one in four come from the county’s shelter, where a new director and new procedures were put in place to limit the number of animals euthanized.
“The Safe Pets program is geared towards keeping those families together,” Vondrell said. “With the eviction moratorium coming up we’re just bracing. If we’re seeing 15 in one week, what’s going to happen when the eviction moratorium actually ends?”
The Humane Society of Greater Dayton’s cages and kennels are also at capacity, which is typical, according to the organization. Roughly 20% of the 1,115 animals taken in by the Humane Society were surrender by owners, but it’s unknown whether housing instability factored into any of those, said Jessica Garringer, the organization’s spokeswoman.
“We haven’t seen huge increases or decreases,” she said. “For us, it’s been manageable.”
But like at SICSA, the Humane Society is always recruiting people willing to foster animals, Garringer said.
“We’re constantly looking for fosters, because the more fosters we have, ultimately the more animals we can bring in,” she said. “That is a always needed position at the shelter.”
Vondrell said the public can help ease strain on any shelter by not scooping up a stray and immediately transporting it to a shelter that may be miles away.
“Stray animals are usually about less than a mile from the home. So if you can walk the dog through the neighborhood, if you can put up signs, then they’re likely going to be reunited with their owner within 24 hours,” she said.
How to volunteer, donate
If you are interested in becoming a foster volunteer for SICSA, visit www.sicsa.org/foster/volunteer/. Contributions can be made to the Safe Pets program by visiting www.sicsa.org/give/ and selecting the “Help Center/Safe Pets” option. Other giving options are available. SICSA can also be reached by calling 937-294-6505.
Humane Society of Greater Dayton
Individuals, companies and other groups can sign up to volunteer at www.hsdayton.org/get-involved/volunteer/. Donations can be made at www.hsdayton.org/get-involved/donate/. For more information, call 937-268-7387.
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