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Crowded animal shelters fear crisis when eviction moratorium ends

As many as 8 million pets could flood animal shelters when the CDC’s ban on evictions ends Sunday.
Volunteers and staff members at the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, N.Y., welcomed more than 50 dogs and puppies rescued from shelter partners in Shreveport, La., on Sept. 6, 2021.
Volunteers and staff members at the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, N.Y., welcomed more than 50 dogs and puppies rescued from shelter partners in Shreveport, La., on Sept. 6.Alejandra Villa Loarca / Newsday via Getty Images

Animal advocates say they’re preparing for the worst as the end of the federal moratorium on housing evictions could strain shelters around the country, many of which are already full.

As many as 8 million pets could flood into shelters in the coming months — which would double the country’s annual shelter intake — as renters move out, said Kristen Hassen, who oversees Human Animal Support Services, which advocates to keep people and their pets together.

“We’re starting to see the impact of Covid and financial strain and moving as being significant factors in shelter surrender,” Hassen said. “What is happening with the evictions will put about 8 million pets at risk. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll enter shelters. It does mean that their owners are facing evictions. Those numbers are completely devastating and staggering.”

The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention’s moratorium on housing evictions ends Sunday after the Supreme Court in August blocked a Biden administration order extending it.

Predicting how many people will soon be forced from their homes is difficult, and eviction data are scarce.

Some renters have already left their homes and moved in with family members or into homeless shelters, or they are living on the street. Others are disputing eviction filings in court.

At least 8 million people in the U.S. were behind on their rent in early September, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.

It also reported that more than 3.5 million renters were likely or very likely to leave their homes in the next two months because of eviction. Many of those being evicted own pets, and not all will be able to keep them.

About 70 percent of U.S. households have pets, according to a survey released by the American Pet Products Association in June.

Fearing an avalanche of animals from evicted renters, swamped shelters say they aren’t equipped to take in any more pets.

Shelters already are crowded, and they lack enough staff members to provide more than basic care for animals, pet advocates say.

Some shelters are trying to stave off the increase in animals by offering temporary boarding at private kennel facilities, encouraging more fostering of animals and helping owners look for pet-inclusive housing, Hassen said.

In suburban Atlanta, housing evictions could lead to an additional 20,000 pets in shelters, a dire influx of animals that could result in their being euthanized, said Karen Hirsch, a spokeswoman for LifeLine Animal Project, which manages the county animal shelters in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

“This has been a concern for us for a while. We’re facing a space crisis and an unprecedented number of cats and dogs,” Hirsch said. “That might push us over. We work really hard to save every life, but if we’re flooded with 20,000 animals, where would we even put them?”

The two shelters have about 900 pets in kennels and about 1,000 in foster homes.

It could be far more grim in Cook County, Illinois, where 350 animals are being housed at the two shelters operated by the South Suburban Humane Society. That’s twice the number of animals the shelters should have. The society said evictions could bring 150,000 more animals. If that happens, euthanizing will probably occur.

“It’s literally keeping me up at night worrying about it. It’s a crisis,” CEO Emily Klehm said. “I don’t see how any of us would be in a situation other than that, but I can’t think that way right now.”

But not every city is anticipating the same. So far, evictions in Detroit don’t seem to be a problem, even though the city-run shelter is nearly full.

“We are not seeing any kind of uptick that has any correlation to evictions,” said Mark Kumpf, director of Detroit Animal Care and Control.

Kumpf said citywide eviction prevention programs offer financial assistance and legal services for people facing homelessness to help ease the possible intake of pets.

“Part of this plan, obviously, is to keep those eviction levels down, and that way people aren’t being evicted and animals won’t be an issue,” he said.