Shortly after the holiday season ends, humane societies around the country are often flooded with an influx of pet “gift returns,” with owners and recipients of these animals quickly surrendering them.
This phenomenon is not new to the Carver Scott Humane Society, which hopes to combat this issue locally by expanding services alleviating stressors for pet owners.
“I think people always have the best intentions in mind, and then they realize … it’s a bigger responsibility,” CSHS Executive Director Cassandra Linkenmeyer said.
From November through January, CSHS staffers said they tend to see a higher number of surrenders come to the humane society.
“We’ve gotten a lot of them lately though — dogs and cats. It could be correlated with the holidays, but they’re never going to openly say that,” CSHS Operations Manager Elizabeth Milbrandt said.
Staffers said they have also seen an uptick in shelters they work with having more senior-aged pets surrendered and given to CSHS, as people replace these older animals with younger, lively ones come the holidays.
“Even before you make the decision to adopt an animal, you should preface it with, ‘This is a 10 to 20 year commitment’ … it changes your life, and it’s a big commitment,” Milbrandt said.
Over the last couple of months, the humane society has made a priority in highlighting its supportive resources.
CSHS’s Pet Support programs focus on keeping pets in their homes. Linkenmeyer said pet owners often feel they have no choice but to surrender their beloved pet due to financial, health or housing concerns.
“FurKeeps,” a shelter diversion program, provides support and services for pet owners needing a little extra help.
This support includes covering food, pet deposits for rentals, spay and neuter services, routine vaccinations and wellness checks. The humane society can also help recommend additional, affordable behavioral programs and veterinary services.
“We want to be able to keep pets in homes as much as possible and keep that connection with individuals,” Linkenmeyer said. “So if it’s as simple as offering a bag of food or being able to make sure your dog is neutered or spayed, we want to be able to help those families out.”
The humane society also donates cat and dog food as a partner with the CAP Agency located in Shakopee.
Pet Support programs also include Home Away from Home, a foster service providing temporary housing and care for pets whose owners may be experiencing temporary homelessness, a housing change or health emergency. Animals can be entered in this program for up to 60 days.
Linkenmeyer said pet owners have been able to benefit from this resource in these situations and reunite with their pet when they return to more stable living conditions.
In emergency situations, the Wilson’s Memorial Fund has been set up to help cover half of care costs for a pet, up to $1,000. According to CSHS’ website, this fund is designed to “assist families facing the difficult decision of euthanasia or surrender due to an emergency medical situation where immediate funds are not available.” This can include care for issues like bite wounds, lacerations, urinary blockages or being hit by a vehicle.
“I come from a mental health background, and I think about how important those connections are that we make with people but also with our pets. They can be that source of support for us,” Linkenmeyer said on the importance of keeping pet owners with their pets.
Beyond programs, staff highlighted the importance of reaching out to the humane society for questions and concerns.
By adding two vet techs to the staff over the last year, the humane society has been able to start answering deeper questions and provide more onsite care for pets.
“I encourage people to stop in and ask us questions because our vet techs love to teach people about animals,” Linkenmeyer said. “They love to answer questions about animals and help people out. So use us as a resource, use our website as a resource and know that there’s some really great information out there.”
CSHS has also recently set up a blog, “Ask Dr. D,” allowing people to direct their pet questions to Dr. Terri Derr, the humane society’s staff veterinarian. Each month, she answers questions centered around pets’ behavioral concerns.
The humane society recorded 102 adoptions in December, helping the humane society reach 887 adoptions in 2022 — an all-time high for CSHS. Being early in the year, staffers unfortunately expect to see more animals enter their doors in the coming weeks. But they stand confident in believing they’ll be able to find them loving, permanent homes.
“I think there will be some of those ‘gifts’ that get returned,” Linkenmeyer said. “But we’ll find them a good home that’s a good match.”