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Inflation leading to lower donations, higher intake at rural Kentucky animal shelters

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Nationwide spikes in the cost of living that are wreaking havoc on family budgets are also causing major problems at animal shelters.

As families struggle to make room for higher gas and grocery bills, some pet owners are making the difficult decision to surrender their animal to a shelter. That’s been the driving factor behind a spike in intake at the Christian County Animal Shelter, according to shelter Director Irene Grace.

“Our intake has increased dramatically in the last four months,” Grace said. “And the food costs have gone up for the animals. I believe that’s part of why they’re turning in so many animals.“

Grace said the rate of adoptions has stayed the same, but the number of surrenders and stray animals outpaces the number of adoptions.

A common “relief valve” for animal shelters dealing with capacity issues is rescue organizations. These privately-operated facilities take animals from overcrowded shelters to areas of the nation where spay and neuter policies have created a shortage of adoptable animals. However, Grace said this last resort option hasn’t been reliable due to the inflation crunch.

“We have gotten some to rescue, but the rescues are full as well.”

The problems experienced by the shelter in Hopkinsville are common throughout the commonwealth, according to Barren River Area Welfare Association (BRAWA) Director Connie Greer.

Greer said that in addition to soaring rates of animal surrenders, pet owners who were previously financially secure have been forced to ask for food and other resources from the shelter.

“It’s definitely made a difference,” Greer said. “People weren’t adopting like they once were. We’re not getting donations as often as we once were. We’re seeing more people coming in to ask for help with dog food.”

Greer added the skyrocketing stray animal population in Glasgow-Barren County is only complicating the already precarious capacity issues.

“We’re seeing more stray dogs than we have ever in the past. I’d say we’re probably up over 200 dogs this year,” Greer said.

BRAWA’s normal capacity is 36 dogs in addition to a puppy area, but Greer said the facility has been at more than double capacity throughout the summer. She said she doesn’t expect that to change.

“At this point, we expect the worst.”

While inflation exacerbated overcrowding in animal shelters, uncertainty stemming from the pandemic has put shelters in a bind for months. Greer and Grace are both pleading for more community donations and adoptions in the short-term, but both agree that spay and neuter programs are the best tool in building sustainable animal populations in the future.

Dalton York joined WKU Public Radio in December 2021 as a reporter and host of Morning Edition. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in History from Murray State University, and was named MSU's Outstanding Senior Man for fall 2021. He previously served as a student reporter and All Things Considered host for WKMS, part of the Kentucky Public Radio network. He has won multiple Kentucky Associated Press Awards and Impact Broadcast Awards from the Kentucky Broadcasters Association. A native of Marshall County, Dalton is a proud product of his tight-knit community.