HERMITAGE, Pa. (WYTV) – Many dogs and cats were adopted from shelters throughout 2020 as people began working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now animal advocates worry fewer spay and neuter surgeries over the last year will fill shelters back up again.
Last March, the COVID-19 pandemic started right around kitten season. Adding to that, fewer dogs and cats were able to get in for spay and neuter surgeries last year.
Soraya Hejazi, executive director at Tails of Hope — a nonprofit spay and neuter clinic in Hermitage — said she’s worried about all of the additional dogs and cats being born. She’s concerned they won’t find homes, will overcrowd shelters and end up homeless or abused.
“While those shelters, everyone was celebrating because they had so many adoptions — there are now a lot more puppies and kittens that don’t have a home, can’t be fed and now they’ll start to fill back up,” she said.
Hejazi worries about the sheer number of animals, especially community cats, not being spayed and neutered. She said over the course of 2020, there were 1.4 million fewer spay and neuter surgeries across the country after clinics closed due to COVID-19.
She said the lack of surgeries led to 4 million additional births.
If this lapse in surgeries continues until even just February, Hejazi said it will amount to 6 million more births. It’s difficult to think that February is just a few days away, but that shows how serious the problem is.
Hejazi said she’s afraid of what will happen to all of those animals if they can’t be placed in homes.
Tails of Hope performed about 1,200 fewer surgeries in 2020 than it did in 2019. Hejazi said that multiplies out to 3,600 additional births just from Tails of Hope’s drop.
The clinic was closed for 102 business days due to the pandemic.
Hejazi said she works closely with local shelters and they’re all saying they can’t accept any more kittens or cats because of the additional births.
She said there are great people across Mercer County who care for, feed and pay for community cats to get spayed or neutered. She said the economic fallout from the pandemic has impacted them, too, though.
“That was another hardship for all of our goodwill ambassadors out there that are helping the homeless cats. This year was tough, financially, for everybody. How much can someone take out of their own pockets to help just pockets of cats around our community?”
Hejazi said there are things you can do to fight pet overpopulation.
Besides spaying and neutering your own pets — which will likely already be done for you if you got them from a reputable shelter — get the procedure done for homeless cats in your area if you’re able. Learning to trap, neuter and release them can greatly cut down on the number of kittens and helps the cats be more healthy. You can contact Tails of Hope or other similar organizations to learn about that process.
Another way to help is by donating to nonprofits like clinics or shelters.