Local facilities still dealing with "COVID boom"

Wandering unfixed strays are causing a rapid increase in the cat and dog population by reproducing in the streets, leaving Stockton shelters over the capacity for animals.

Over the past year, shelters have been swarmed with an alarming decrease in local adoptions and a large amount of surrenders, and abandonment of family pets has become the norm in recent years, according to shelter officials.

“I call it the COVID boom, everybody wanted a pet that they could stay home with and now we are just kinda facing the consequences of all that,” said Javier Munoz, facility manager for Delta Humane Society.

According to the Stockton Animal Services data, more than 7,500 stray cats and dogs were taken in by the shelter in 2021. 

The increase in strays not only affects shelters but the animals’ mental and emotional health, leading to kennel stress and anxiety in the overcrowded and overpopulated shelters. 

“We try to alleviate those [kennel stress and anxiety] by doing some sort of kennel enrichment,” said Ashley Kluza, service manager for the Stockton Animal Shelter. “We have a team that’s through SSPA that come and walk the dogs. Every dog gets out twice a day, so we really try to offset some of the ways that the dogs are affected.”

Those with unwanted pets usually dump their unneutered, unspayed or aggressive animals on the streets leaving them to fend for themselves, causing litters and litters of animals roaming the streets of Stockon, said Kluza, adding that shelters all over San Joaquin County have been dealing with the same issue 

“Being unaltered, they just reproduce and that just causes more and more of the unwanted stray population to increase” Kluza said.

Here are what shelters are doing to help with the flood of animals.

Stockton Animal Shelter. (Jada Portillo)

Starting last month, the shelter now provides free microchipping through a new program, as well as low-cost microchips at a price of $5. It’s encouraged to microchip your pet since it’s easier to find your pet when it gets lost, picked up, or brought into a shelter.

Low-cost vaccines are also provided. 

Non-Profit, local shelters and private shelters can help you with providing meals and treats for your animals if the cost of food is weighing you down. Always reach out when help is needed.

At the shelter, a program called “Pet Pantry” is available to those who need help feeding there animals every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. 

 “We have daily movement of animals,” said Kluza. “We are by appointment only on stray dropoff, and of course we take in sick, injured, aggressive strays so we account for those.”

What can the community do to help?

“Rehome your animals using reliable and safe websites, “If you need to rehome your animal you do so responsibly,” said Kluza.

Programs like “home to home” are a great website to use as well as social media, Kluza said. Though you want to be cautious and make sure whoever has your pet is reliable and responsible when using social media. She  recommends making sure whoever has your pet is reliable is vital especially since they have the potential to abandon your pet.

Shelter officials urge people to Donate food, blankets, toys, and if you have a pet, make sure to look into your local shelters for programs they provide to help you take care of your loving pet. 

“Everybody is kind of hurting for donations and community involvement,” said Munoz, noting if you can’t donate money, donate items to help care for the animals.

If you can, donate a dollar or two because anything and everything will help the shelters, community, and officials urge you neuter and spay your pets.

“Boost the social media of the shelters and let other people see that there’s pets that need homes,” urged Munoz. “Just spread the word.”

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