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Fewer dog transfers happening between organizations

Shelter Animals Count, the most trusted and current source for animal sheltering data, notes a concerning trend in its Q2 data, which shows a decrease in transfers of animals between shelters. Transfers between organizations and communities play a vital role in enabling a balanced distribution of animals and alleviating overcrowding. As dog adoptions are down for rescues and private shelters compared with both 2021 and 2022, their total outcomes are down – likely leading to fewer transfers in.

Cat transfers have remained similar to the last two years, while dog transfers continue to be much lower, at 14% less than 2022, and 23% less than 2021. It’s been three years since the system was last functioning at pre-pandemic levels.

In a healthy animal sheltering ecosystem, transfers play a vital role in helping to balance supply and demand, moving adoptable dogs and puppies from shelters where they’re at risk because of sheer volume, to other parts of the country where they can be adopted easily. Moving dogs and puppies from overcrowded shelters into areas where there is more demand also provides the opportunity to offer a wider variety of adoptable pets, which helps encourage people to adopt from shelters and rescues, rather than purchasing from breeders, pet shops or online suppliers. This was how the system functioned pre-pandemic.

“Amidst the growing challenges faced by animal shelters nationwide, one issue stands out to me in Q2 more than the rest – the continuing decline of animal transfers between organizations,” said Stephanie Filer, executive director of Shelter Animals Count. “Many shelters that were once open to receiving transports are now grappling with the rising needs of local animals, making it difficult to accommodate arrivals from other locations. In addition, a lack of volunteer support, which impacts coordinating transport efforts and driving vehicles, has likely only made the already difficult situation worse.”

“In Q1, we saw some hope that the bottleneck in transfers may be starting to ease. Unfortunately, that hope was short-lived. Now in Q2, transfers in and out of organizations have hit their lowest point in the past three years,” Filer said. “Adopting and fostering is imperative not only to help alleviate the over-capacity crisis, but to eventually make space to get transfers moving again.”

Overall, transfers out for dogs decreased from 17% of intake in 2019 to 14% in 2022. In 2020, when adoption rates were high, government-funded organizations saw their highest transfer out rate at 22% of intake. Private shelters saw their transfer in rate drop from 45% in 2019 to 38% in 2022 for dogs.

The stalled transfer system is especially concerning as shelters are now in their third year of having too many animals and not enough adoptions, especially for dogs. Dog adoptions are forecast to remain flat and even dip below 2022 numbers. An increase in shelter intake January-June 2023 continues to be driven by dogs, which saw a 4% increase compared with the same months of 2022. Dog intake is nearly 15% higher than 2021.

The gap of cats and dogs waiting for an outcome reached 7% in the first half of the year, leading to an increase in animal populations at already overburdened shelters, rescues and government-funded organizations in every region of the U.S.

The first half of 2023 saw a 14% increase in non-live outcomes for cats and dogs combined compared with 2022, which are now 25% higher than 2021. Dogs have seen a dramatic increase in non-live outcomes, with a nearly 30% increase compared with 2022, and a nearly 74% increase compared with 2021.

More information is available in the SAC Q2 2023 data analysis, comparing animal sheltering data January-June, 2021, 2022 to 2023.

Shelters continue to express a dire need for community support, and ask that people adopt or foster from a local shelter or rescue organization, spay or neuter their pets, and volunteer or donate.

Shelter Animals Count is a collaborative, industry-led nonprofit organization formed by a diverse group of animal welfare agencies to create and share The National Database of sheltered animal statistics, providing facts and enabling insights that will improve animal welfare throughout the country.