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'We're in an absolute crisis': Metro Vancouver animal shelters at max capacity amid inflation, housing issues

Almost every day, Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS) has been taking in stray or surrendered cats.

“It's kitten season right now, so we're exceptionally busy anyway during this time of year, but we are definitely seeing an increase in animals and the need from the public,” said Sarah Jones, executive director of LAPS.

Cats go into heat seasonally and typically roam freely when the weather gets warmer, Jones explained. Kitten season is when there is spike of homeless kittens that need support from shelters.

Inflation and the high cost of living are also prompting some to surrender or abandon their animals.

“A big part of the inflation issue is more about people’s day-to-day struggles and how that’s trickling down to impact the animals because they’re having struggles with their own food and shelter and now they’re having struggles with food and shelter for the pets as well,” she said.

Paws for Hope, a charity that offers temporary animal foster care for people experiencing crises, as well as subsidized veterinary care for low-income families, is seeing the demand for help quadrupled.

“We field between 200 or 300 requests a month between our two programs,” said executive director Kathy Powelson.

“We're in an absolute crisis. There's so much need, and there's just not the support available to help everyone that that's in need.”

Powelson also attributed the surge in demand to soaring prices.

“Pet food, pet supplies are going up. The cost of veterinary care has gone up as well to sort of keep up with the rising costs of inflation, and our salaries are not increasing in line with the cost of inflation. The housing crisis is absolutely destroying, and literally tearing families apart,” she said.

Both Powelson and Jones said a lack of affordable, pet-friendly rentals means people have to choose between surrendering their animals and becoming homeless.

“That’s a heartbreaking decision to have to make; nobody should have to make that decision. So it's a huge issue,” said Jones.


Even though shelters are at max capacity, Jones wants people to know that there is assistance for pet owners who need it.

“There's a lot of generousity out there and food banks, programs like that. So, there is still help, but we definitely want to be keeping as many pets with their people as possible,” she said.

If people do choose to have their pets rehomed, Jones said it is important that the animals are not left abandoned and are surrendered directly to a shelter with the animal’s history, so they can be set up for success.

Both Paws for Hope and LAPS are supported by donations, which have been dropping.

“People's disposable income is slowly decreasing, so donations are decreasing as well and people just don't have that disposable income to donate. So, you have this perfect storm where there's a tremendous increase in need, but a decrease in the resources to provide that support,” Powelson said.

She doesn’t see the issue getting better any time soon. In fact, she fears it will only get worse before it turns a corner. Top Stories


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