By Stephanie Nistler
There is a misconception that animal shelters are thriving. Quite contrarily, shelters nationwide are filled beyond capacity with more animals than we’ve seen in many years. While the Covid-19 pandemic began with a surge in adoptions, it sadly had the dire consequence of creating almost 3 million missed spay/neuter surgeries. There are now far more dogs and cats than there are families adopting them.
A recent study done by the University of Florida found that since 2020, it is estimated that 2.7 million spay/neuter surgeries did not happen due to the pandemic. Sadly, adoptions have slowed, too, causing shelters to be overcrowded and forced to euthanize perfectly adoptable pets because there is nowhere for them to go.
The Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe along with our partner, the Town of Truckee Animal Services, built a shelter in 2013 that was larger than the needs of our community so that we could support more animals in need. Approximately 70% of the animals we receive come from other shelters, which are often overcrowded and underfunded. Thanks to our broad social media network, our animals are placed into permanent homes in many communities, including Truckee, the Tahoe Basin, Northern Nevada, and Northern California.
At the Truckee Animal Shelter, we are incredibly fortunate to be able to find homes for 100% of the adoptable and treatable animals we receive. But our partners all over California and beyond are struggling, and because of that, so are we.
As a resource to many shelters statewide, we receive daily emails with desperate pleas to take some of their animals. We help as much as possible, but we’re a small facility and can only do so much.
To add to these challenges, animal abandonment is on the rise. In fact, even in our community, return-to-owner rates have dropped to 43% (down from 62%) in just two years. This means that, despite our best efforts, less than one half of the stray pets received at the Truckee Animal Shelter are ever reunited with their owners. The sad reality in almost all of these situations is that nobody is looking for them. They’ve been dumped.
Working in an animal shelter is much harder than most people realize. Alison Herzog, shelter manager for the Town of Truckee, shared, “A day in the life of an animal caretaker can be a combination of satisfaction and sadness. There is an emotional toll to taking care of animals who have been abandoned or neglected. It’s equally hard to see a devastated owner having to give up their pet due to circumstances beyond their control.”
I’m so proud of the work done by the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe and the Town of Truckee Animal Services to save as many lives as we possibly can. And my goal in writing this article is to get the forces of good (i.e., our amazing community) to spread the word that animal shelters need help, and to please consider adoption when you’re ready to add a furry family member.
Having worked in shelters for half of my life, I can assure you that they are full of amazing pets who did nothing to deserve the hand they’ve been dealt. Most are wonderful family pets who ended up in this situation through no fault of their own, often due to circumstances in a family like a divorce, moving away, or the passing of their owners.
We are incredibly grateful for our community and wish to thank each of you who helps us in our crusade to save and improve the most deserving little lives. Please spread the word and support your local shelter this winter season and beyond.
~ Stephanie Nistler is the CEO of the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe. She has lived in Truckee since 2001 and was hired as the first employee at HSTT in 2004. When Steph isn’t working, she and her husband, Justin, spend their time playing outside with their two dogs, Stevie and Catfish Jones.