Several months ago an Auburn woman who lost her home tried to give her two 8-year-old cats up for adoption at the Auburn-Placer County Animal Shelter.
When the shelter said their facilities could not handle another animal, they suggested an affiliate in Tahoe Vista as a possible alternative.
When the Auburn woman arrived, Anna Rasher, Supervisor of the Tahoe Vista-Placer County Animal Shelter, said the owner could not stop crying as she handed over her two cats along with their toys, food and carrier.
Today, many pet owners are faced with a similar decision, forced to do the unthinkable as they struggle to make ends meet.
But while animal owners around the country are abandoning their pets, it seems Tahoe residents are making the decision to place their unaffordable animals in the care of local shelters and humane societies.
According to Stephanie Hiemstra, Executive Director of the Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe, she has not seen animal abandonment indicative of national trends.
What she does see, however, are families reluctantly giving up their pets for adoption.
“Most of the people the Truckee Humane Society have dealt with were forced to make an incredibly difficult decision,” said Hiemstra.
With owners sadly surrendering their pets to these shelters, Dan Olsen, Truckee Animal Services Manager, said he has not noticed an increase in stray animals on the streets.
“We get about four to five animals a month because of varying reasons,” said Olsen.
And when compared to the 10 abandoned dogs a Southhaven, Miss., Animal Control Officer found during a four-hour period in early December, according to a Dec. 7 Associated Press article, four to five a month seems reasonable.
In addition to taking in locally relinquished pets, the Humane Society is also trying to help other areas who’s facilities are reaching capacity, most of which euthanize animals because of overcrowding.
“We are starting to see an extremely high increase of requests from larger city shelters asking for more help,” said Hiemstra.
Depending on available space, Hiemstra said they rescue between five and 40 animals a month from other areas. “Our community is first and foremost,” she added.
Because the Humane Society has received so many animals from the Truckee area in the past month, they have not been able to rescue animals from Reno in weeks, said Hiemstra.
Despite the hard decisions people make to turn their pets over, the Humane Society provides them with all the necessary care. Animals are tested for diseases, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and made well before they are put into homes.
“That’s the real tragedy,” said Hiemstra. “Most of the people relinquishing their pets are devastated. But they know when they turn them over to us we will find them a good home.”
As for the woman who gave up her two cats, Rasher said that was the only instance she had encountered where an economic crisis forced the owner to give up their pets.
With adoption rates for cats generally low, the two cats went overlooked by adopters for months.
Then one day the woman called to see if her cats were still there. When Rasher told her they had not been adopted, the woman immediately left her new home in Sacramento to drive up and get her beloved pets.
And according to Rasher, “She was ecstatic!”
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