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Spokane animal shelters see uptick in surrendered pets as housing emergency looms post-COVID-19

Aug. 2, 2021 Updated Mon., Aug. 2, 2021 at 8:17 a.m.

Local animal shelters saw a shortage of adoptable pets during the pandemic, but as the eviction moratorium ends and a Spokane housing crisis leaves many unhoused, shelters are now dealing with the opposite – full capacity with no one to adopt.

Gail Golden, marketing director at Spokane Humane Society, said this is in sharp contrast to 2020 when Gov. Jay Inslee set an eviction moratorium that kept people in their homes.

Now, with many tenants seeing their rent spike in Spokane, Golden said people are having to make the difficult choice to surrender their dogs to the shelter.

“It’s a given that people are going to be struggling. … It’s the ultimate sacrifice to give someone away who is a part of your family,” she said.

The same is true at SpokAnimal, a nonprofit animal shelter that saw its spaces filled by mostly larger dogs that owners could no longer give the best care to, said Dori Peck, the shelter’s executive director.

“It wasn’t like this two years ago,” she said. “We really don’t have the capacity.”

Because larger dogs like shepherds or pit bulls need lots of space, exercise and care, these are the dogs most people surrender, Peck said.

The shelter provides many free services when the animals get there, including vaccinations and spaying/neutering, but they can only do so much, Peck said.

The two shelters also rely on donations because of their status as nonprofit organizations. Community members will often donate food or pet supplies, but the space they have can only hold so many animals, Peck said.

“If we have space we take what we can, if we don’t, then we don’t,” she said. “I know everybody is full right now,” she continued, referring to other animal shelters.

Golden said the shelter is full but not yet at capacity. The shelters also have a Guardian Angels program, which allows owners to board their pet at the shelter while they move or find a place to live, Peck said.

This helps people not have to keep their pets in a car during excessive heat similar to the waves experienced at the end of June and again at the end of July, Golden said.

“It’s been brutally hot,” she said. “And that heat is hard on everybody.”

She said the Humane Society is in need of more animal foster parents to help house the amount of pets at the shelter. Those interested can apply on the Spokane Humane Society website, but must undergo a background check.

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