Shelter sees sharp increase in owners surrendering, abandoning dogs and cats during pandemic

Dogs like Connie, Bumper, and Latte each have their own story, but they've all found themselves in a similar situation at Manatee County Animal Services. 

"A lot of people are facing these types of situations and it’s so sad to see the pets suffer," said Hans Wohlgefahrt with the shelter. 

He says they've seen a big increase in dogs and cats being surrendered, and in some cases, abandoned. 

Their owners tell them finances and evictions have forced them to give up their pets. 

"On certain days we’ve seen as many as 12 pets come in," said Wohlgefahrt. 

Many are young and healthy. 

Wohlgefahrt said they've been able to pull some information from their microchips. In several cases, the animals were adopted or purchased when COVID-19 lockdowns started. 

In at least 30 cases, financial and housing hardships were the main cause for handing over their pets. 

"The sad part of what we are seeing is people are just letting their pets go," said Wohlgefahrt. 

In Latte's case, her owners found themselves in a similar situation. Instead of asking for help, Latte's owners dropped her off inside the gate and left without an explanation. 

Before it gets to a point where you have to surrender or give up your pet, Manatee County Animal Services says they have ways they can help. That includes a pet food pantry, where free food and supplies can be handed out to pet owners. All they need to do is call. 

“We can try to help with food and supplies and then we have a lot of connections within the community. We are really trying to help people keep their pets as much as possible," Said Wohlgefahrt. 

If you have to give up your pet, Animal Services asks that you make an appointment to do so. That way they can take down information to help find each dog or cat a new home. 

For now, many pets sit, waiting for a new home -- one that will be forever. 

"We want people to do the right thing for their pet. You make a commitment when you bring an animal into your family," said Wohlgefahrt. 

For families that are looking to take on a new pet, adoptions are by appointment only. Adoption fees are being waived in lieu of a donation to Friends of Manatee County Animal Services. 

You can also choose to do a holiday fostering. Visit their website to fill out an express foster application.