Animal shelters concerned about returns as workers return to offices

Juneau Animal Rescue has seen a spike in surrenders to the shelter.

Patrick is one of the good boys and girls at Juneau Animal Rescue that need a home. The shelter is dealing with a spike in returns and worries what the return to office work may do. (Courtesy photo / JAR)

Patrick is one of the good boys and girls at Juneau Animal Rescue that need a home. The shelter is dealing with a spike in returns and worries what the return to office work may do. (Courtesy photo / JAR)

While the pandemic and the work-from-home movement saw animal shelters empty across the country, the tide may be shifting back the other way.

A recent spike in returns to Juneau Animal Rescue has the management of the shelter concerned.

“The beginning of the pandemic was great because lots of shelters emptied out worldwide,” said JAR executive director Samantha Blankenship in a phone conversation. “Our concern is that as people return to work they’re realizing they can’t take care of the animals.”

A recent spike in relinquishments raised concerns at JAR, Blankenship said.

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“We have in the past few weeks seen a lot more people owner-relinquishing animals. We had a period of 48 hours where we saw 17 animals come in,” Blankenship said. “We’re hoping this is just a little push and it’s not the new normal for the next few months. But we need help finding homes for the animals we have right now.”

JAR, which reopens its lobby beginning on May 20 for people with appointments to adopt, has decent but not infinite capacity for animals to stay there. The shelter is not yet reopening for folks hoping to come visit with the dogs, which has its own side effects, Blankenship said.

Officer Hops is one of the good boys and girls at Juneau Animal Rescue that need a home. The shelter is dealing with a spike in returns and worries what the return to office work may do. (Courtesy Photo / JAR)

Officer Hops is one of the good boys and girls at Juneau Animal Rescue that need a home. The shelter is dealing with a spike in returns and worries what the return to office work may do. (Courtesy Photo / JAR)

“The other thing is a lot of animals have spent the entire last year in a home not really being socialized,” Blankenship said. “We’re getting more time-consuming behavior cases that are harder to find a home for.”

Blankenship said she hoped that they’d be able to open the shelter further to encourage more adoptions soon. The shelter also has a number of animals besides dogs and cats that need homes, Blankenship said.

“We’re excited to do that,” Blankenship said. “We’re hoping that will facilitate moving animals out quicker.”

Blankenship said they’re hoping not to reach a situation where they might have to turn away surrendered animals.

“We’re hoping we don’t get there. What we’d do is reach out to people and try to foster. Of course, fostering just delays the process so we’re trying to adopt out animals as fast as can,” Blankenship said. “We’ve asked people not to surrender unless it was an emergency.”

The shelter is also taking other steps to increase capacity.

“Our capacity is about 60 cats and we’ve got 47 dog kennels but we also do boarding and daycare,” Blankenship said. “We’re paring down our boarding for the next few weeks so we can have enough room for the dogs.”

Courtesy Photo / JAR 
Phil and Lil are some of the good boys and girls at Juneau Animal Rescue that need a home. The shelter is dealing with a spike in returns and worries what the return to office work may do.

Courtesy Photo / JAR Phil and Lil are some of the good boys and girls at Juneau Animal Rescue that need a home. The shelter is dealing with a spike in returns and worries what the return to office work may do.

JAR is also working to rapidly clear its deck of all spaying and neutering that needs doing, Blankenship said. Other events that JAR usually organizes to encourage donations to help pay for costly medical procedures, medications, or helping people to pay for euthanizations are on hold for now, however.

“We usually try to do a whale watch in the summer but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Blankenship said. “The tourist industry has really been hit hard.”

Fundraiser cancellations have also impacted Southeast Alaska Organization for Animals, an animal welfare organization that serves communities throughout Southeast Alaska.

In a social media post soliciting donations, SOFA said since it was unable to host its regular fundraisers, the organization is having a difficult time rescuing animals it is asked to take on.

Elsewhere, the Alaska Animal Rescue Friends said their adoptions have eased but not stopped.

“Puppy adoptions have slowed a bit, as people are returning to work, which was expected. However there still seems to be a steady flow of folks looking to adopt as the weather warms up and people find themselves doing more outdoor adventuring,” said Beverly Ausick, the director of AARF, in an email. “We are now having more people interested in the adult dogs and less in the puppies.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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