Dakin Humane Society: Winter and the pet population

Jan 30 2019
Published by under Local News Feeds

The pet population decreases during the winter months.

By LEE CHAMBERS

Eight years ago this month my landlady relaxed her regulations about pets in the house I rent, and that allowed me to adopt a kitten.  While not yet working for Dakin, I was familiar with the organization, and happily made my way to the Springfield Adoption Center fully expecting to have a hard time choosing which of several fluffy, adorable kittens would come home with me that day.

There was only one kitten available, a tiny two month old named Kelly.  The staff let me know that I was very lucky to have arrived so soon after she took her place on the adoption floor.  There was already a lot of interest in her. I was amazed at what I saw. Where were all the animals?

A few years later I began working for Dakin and I learned why we see such a decrease in the pet population during the winter months.  Mother Nature plays a big part in this, as the breeding cycles of cats naturally slow down during the cold-weather months, then increase beginning in springtime.  Another factor that results in fewer pets being brought to shelters like ours (not just on a seasonal basis) is the success of the pro-spay/neuter message.

An increase in pet microchipping and animals wearing ID tags means more reunions between people and their lost pets, preventing shelter admissions.  Plus, Dakin programs like our Pet Food Aid program and Safety Plan for Animals (in which we care for pets when their people are relocating under duress from domestic violence, or facing short-term admission to medical facilities) help keep people and their pets together.

Having fewer animals under our roof from December through May is not an isolated circumstance.  Animal shelters throughout New England are facing the same reality. And that’s a good thing in many ways; as the last thing we want to see is overcrowded shelters.

As a result of this, we’re able to work with our partners in Dixie Dog transports, and bring dogs up here from southern shelters that are filled to capacity. These dogs are eagerly adopted by loving people in western Massachusetts (and beyond), and it’s the ultimate win/win.  We’ve also linked up with shelters in several states to take in transported cats and kittens that are warmly received, especially when the weather blows cold.

There is another category of pets that are brought to Dakin with increasing frequency; dogs and cats that are elderly and/or have behavioral or medical complications.  It can be hard sometimes to find adopters ready to take on a pet like this, and because we’re an open admission shelter, we do not turn away any animal brought to us, as long as they’re a species that we normally place for adoption.  So, we’re seeing our share of trembling Chihuahuas who need to relearn how to trust – and ultimately love – someone new. Or an elderly cat that has peculiar behaviors that brought them to Dakin and may just be addressed by corrective actions.

Fortunately, we can move many of these pets into new homes, thanks to trained staff and volunteers who work together to create behavioral and medical plans geared for successful outcomes for these animals.  We’re also grateful to have hero adopters who can see past the quirks and challenges these pets present, look deeply into their eyes, and find a sweet soul they want to be with. Most of all, we’re fortunate to have the support of so many people who care about the lives of all these animals, and it’s support that’s needed all year long.

So, fear not, adopters…each year brings the warm weather months when Dakin’s animal population will more than double.  But in the meantime, don’t despair…we may have the right pet for you right now.

Lee Chambers is media and public relations manager of the Dakin Humane Society. Dakin delivers effective, innovative services to animals in need and the people who care about them. 

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