Animal welfare is currently in a state of crisis. The first question many members of our community have is: Why now?

A primary reason is the cost of living has skyrocketed. Affordable, pet-friendly housing has become a scarcity in our community. The bottom line is people can’t afford to keep their pets. In 2022, millions of additional pets entered the sheltering system, and 2023 will continue that trend.

Adoption interest is down for many of the same reasons, so pets – especially large dogs – are sitting in shelters longer, which means fewer can be rescued from under-resourced partners. It’s also spring and this is when shelters get hit with kittens along with puppies.

Spaying and neutering pets is vital. Yet, COVID restrictions reduced many spay/neuter programs nationwide (3 million spay and neuter surgeries behind nationally in 2022), which has caused an increase in unwanted litters. There are fewer grant opportunities for affordable, community spay/neuter programs, even though we all know that spay/neuter is truly what works for mitigating unwanted litters, and needs to always be a critical part of animal welfare.

Access to affordable vet care is a critical issue as well. This is another factor why people can’t afford their pets, which is why – here at the SPCA of Northern Nevada –  we address this issue through our affordable spay/neuter program, vaccine clinics, Todd’s Medical Fund, and our new Heal house call vet program. We also strive to create a positive work culture to retain our team, and include training and education opportunities for our employees and volunteers.

Nevada Humane Society (NHS) hasn’t had a spay/neuter program in 3-4 years and the SPCA-NN affordable spay/neuter clinic can’t keep up with demand, even though we offer it three days per week. Options Veterinary Care (a nonprofit clinic in Reno) also offers affordable surgeries, but demand in our community far outpaces us both.

NHS is a large, open-admission shelter and its failures have added to the overcrowding at Washoe County Regional Animal Services (WCRAS). And while SPCA-NN and others are doing our best, we are too small to keep up with our community’s recent growth and increasing need. WCRAS has a contract with NHS to transfer animals once the mandatory 5-day stray hold ends and adopt them out because WCRAS is a municipal shelter that doesn’t facilitate adoptions. Any additional specific questions regarding WCRAS or NHS need to be directed to those organizations. It is important to note that WCRAS has not euthanized for space yet, but each time they reach critical capacity they have to consider it.

What Can You Do?

Those who have missing pets who are currently at WCRAS, need to immediately reclaim their stray pets to free up space. All members of the community who are able to do so need to adopt, foster, volunteer, donate, and/or get their pets fixed. This will all help alleviate the current animal welfare crisis in our community.