The COVID-19 pandemic affected the lives of communities, including animals in Chula Vista.
The Best Friends Animal Society issued an alert on a national crisis in shelters across the nation, estimating over 100,000 dogs and cats waiting for adoption nationwide. They also found about 60,000 more dogs and 40,000 more cats in American shelters awaiting adoption than in January of last year.
The Chula Vista Animal Care Facility (CVACF) has 190 animals in its care, and due to the ongoing pandemic, it is operating with reduced staff. There are 24 full-time and part-time staff, including admin, shelter staff, medical and officers, who anticipate kitten season in March that will further limit shelter spaces.
“We have to operate on an appointment basis, and that doesn't help the dog population that we have on hand. They're not seen as much as we'd like, and we'd love for them to find homes sooner rather than later,” said Mia Navedo-Williams, spokesperson for Best Friends Animal Society.
Shelters face overcrowding due to the pandemic, and several factors include the lack of staffing, the lack of information, the lack of information in communities, and the number of animals going into shelters surpassing adoption rates.
“Omicron’s surge has dramatically added pressure on shelters facing a staffing shortage that limits shelter hours, decreases the number of in-person volunteers, and reduces adoption events and pet care support,” said Julie Castle, executive director of the Best Friends Animal Society.
According to studies by the Best Friends Animal Society, which is dedicated to collecting data, partnering with local shelters, and has the largest shelter in the nation, there are currently over 950 dogs and cats are euthanized daily in shelters throughout the United States.
The CVACF is in a “better position in that we’re not at a point to make those difficult decisions,” according to Navedo-Williams.
“We've been fortunate that it's been more of an issue a slowdown, and not being able to have the pets seen as often or going into homes as quickly,” Navedo-Williams said.
That in itself could be problematic if there is an influx of pets that come in, according to Navedo-Williams, who assured that Best Friends Animal Society does everything they can to prevent difficult decisions.
Last summer, Best Friends Animal Society surveyed over 150 animal shelters and organizations to gauge staffing issues caused by the pandemic. What they found were 88 percent of shelters were short-staffed and 57 percent of shelters have cut hours or programs due to lack of staff.
Of the respondents, 41 percent reported they were operating at 25 percent normal staffing levels, and 62 percent are operating more than 10 percent below normal staffing levels. Navedo-Williams said volunteers are key when combating staffing shortages.
Many things can be done locally to reduce the impact on shelters. According to Navedo-Williams, people can open up their homes to foster kittens as one way to help with the upcoming season, as they do better outside of shelter spaces.
“We want the community to get involved so we can have the best outcomes for the pets of Chula Vista. We'd love for them to thrive in homes, and I think the Chula Vista community has a lot of love to give to these pets. No matter how great a shelter can be, it's still stressful for pets. Stress can cause them to become un-adoptable. Think of the shelter as a last resort, especially right now when we're not seeing as many adoption events and give pets better chances at a quick adoption,” Navedo-Williams said.
Members of the public may schedule an appointment with the Chula Vista Animal Care Facility online at https://www.chulavistaca.gov, or by dialing 619-476-247. The site may be switched to Spanish.