This week, the media received a distressing press release from Orange County Animal Services: In the past 10 weeks, the shelter has seen a 74 percent jump in the number of pets surrendered to the shelter by their owners, compared to this time last year. This is troubling for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Orange County Animal Services – as well as most of the other shelters and rescues in our area – is almost always full. In OCAS' case, it usually has more dogs and cats than it's able to adopt out. An increase in owner surrenders means even more dogs and cats (and occasionally other animals, like guinea pigs and rabbits) that may never make it out of the shelter alive.
“Sometimes owners will tell us they’ve tried looking for a new home for their pet and were unsuccessful in their attempts,” said Dil Luther, Division Manager of Orange County Animal Services. “We’d like to remind owners that our shelter also has a difficult time finding homes for each of our shelter pets, as there are more pets entering the shelter than there are families looking to adopt.”
Here are some hard numbers from the county's website about the fate of animals that enter the shelter system in Orange County. In the 2013-2014 fiscal year,
the shelter took in 20,750 animals (that number includes both owner surrenders and strays). Only 6,188 of those animals were adopted; 931 were transferred to rescue organizations; 1,501 were returned to owners; 934 were "relocated" (we're guessing they mean feral cats). That's less than half of the animals the shelter took in. (The shelter's numbers say they saved 11,339, but using the numbers they offer in the document, the other 1,785 are unaccounted for – either way, that's still a lot of animals that end up euthanized in the shelter.)
According to OCAS, the two primary reasons people offer for giving up their pets are moving and lack of training. The shelter points out that people should "research prior to selecting a new residence to ensure that all family members are welcome in the new home," which makes sense.
We'd like to offer a few more
tips for pet owners who are moving:
The District on Baldwin Park
- Make a renter's resume for your pets, including references from previous landlords for your cats and dogs.
- If you rent and have pets, be an excellent pet-owning tenant – don't give landlords a reason not to renew your lease.
- Look for places to live outside your comfort zone – Orlando is huge, so if you're not finding what you're looking for in your target zone, you could try expanding your search. If you can't find a place close to downtown Orlando, what about SoDo? Or Conway? Instead of Winter Park, try Maitland or Casselberry.
- Try looking for private rentals, rather than complexes. You can even contact a realtor to help you look – often, the landlord working with a real estate agent pays the fees, not the tenant.
- Give yourself lots of lead time – it can take time to find a good pet-friendly rental, so don't start looking at the last minute.
- Don't convince yourself that your pet won't be happy in a smaller space/new place/without a yard. Your pet is more adaptable than you think, and with exercise, time and enrichment, he/she will probably settle into your new apartment or rental home just fine.
- Don't give up looking for new apartments just because you've gotten a few rejections. Keep calling. There are pet-friendly apartments out there, but you have to be persistent in looking for them.
- Here are a few you can check out:
Winter Park Commons
(does have some breed restrictions, see pet policy for details)
Reserve at Conway
(allows up to 2 pets)
(not only is this place pet friendly, they welcome large breeds and they have a pet-grooming station on site)
The Gallery at Mills Park
(2 pets per apartment)
As for the lack of training, OCAS lists the following reasons people have given in the past week for surrendering pets:
1. “He escapes and destroys carpets and shoes and other household items.”
2. “He tends to escape and bite shoes, other than that loving.”
3. “Not enough time to tend to him.”
4. “We are giving her [up] because she broke everything in the apartment.”
5. “House being redone, contractor says dog has to go.”
Did you know that there are trainers in the area who'll give you a discount if you adopted your dog from Orange County Animal Services? Their info is below. If you know someone who might need it, pass it on.