Since the economy's turn for the worse, animal shelters and rescue organizations have been feeling the heat. Municipal shelters are obligated to take in any relinquished animal in their jurisdictions. With unemployment on the rise, fewer people are able to afford pets and more animals are being left without a home. As a result, shelter kennels have been overcrowded, and, unfortunately, more animals have been put to sleep.
In the past, rescue organizations have been able to help alleviate some of the pressure, taking pets from the shelters, placing them in temporary homes, and then ultimately adopting them to new families. However, the recession has taken a severe toll on the rescues' ability to help.
Bonnie Sheehan's rescue group, Hearts for Hounds, has adopted out over 17,000 dogs since 1997. Their dogs vary in age, breed, and health and come from local shelters such as SEAACA, Orange County, and L.A. County. But despite their history of success, Hearts for Hounds has been struggling lately with adoptions.
"We used to get 30 calls a day for adoptions, but now we get 30 calls a day from people wanting to dump their animals with us," Sheehan explained.
Shelter and rescue animals are often thought of as old, used, and unwanted pets. This is a huge misconception, as shelters and rescues often have a wide variety of ages and breeds, but now even the young, new, and typically desirable breeds are struggling to find homes.
At any given time, Hearts for Hounds has a variety of small dogs available for adoption, but Sheehan says that even "Malteses, Yorkies, Shih-Tzus, and even all the small, white, and fluffy dogs are all taking long to place."
One of the group's most recent adoptions, Buddy, is a 3-year-old Poodle/Terrier mix that took more than two years to adopt out.
Rescues like Hearts for Hounds are privately owned non-profits that rely primarily on funding from donations and their own pockets. Due to slow adoptions and financial hardship, Hearts for Hounds has not been able to accept any new animals into their program for months.
"We can't even afford to pay our mortgage here anymore," Sheehan said on the rescue's kennel space in Long Beach.
In an effort to continue helping homeless pets, Sheehan and the rescue's volunteers have come up with new and innovative plan. The organization has began fundraising to buy a lush and spacious property in Virginia. Ideally, the group hopes to transfer their current inventory of dogs to the Virginia property and continue their rescue operation from there.
In Virginia, the dogs will have a more comfortable living situation, and hopefully, the organization will have more success finding the animals new homes there. Once established, Sheehan plans to continue transferring dogs from California to the East Coast, where small dogs are supposedly more scarce and in higher demand.
If you are interested in adopting, volunteering, or donating to Hearts for Hounds, please visit their official website or call Bonnie Sheehan at (562) 597-7137.