Small animals overwhelm the Denver Animal Shelter, which begs the public for help

The number of small animals – rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and turtles – left at the shelter has doubled in the past year.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Small animals are invading the Denver Animal Shelter.

They overwhelmed the facility so much that the shelter opened up areas that are typically used by larger animals to handle the influx. Denver Animal Protection, the city’s agency overseeing the shelter, called the situation “critter congestion.”

Why is the shelter suddenly flooded? Is this another unexpected by-product of COVID?

For 75 percent of people who deliver their pets, the answers have a lot to do with how their life is organized: too many pets, personal or lifestyle reasons, owners, moving, or allergies.

Whatever the reason, the agency is begging the public for help.

“We cannot say for sure the impact COVID has had on people who choose to adopt or abandon pets, but it is an important reminder for people who wish to adopt a new pet. to do their research and really consider whether their lifestyle matches the animal they are adopting, ”wrote Emily Williams, spokesperson for Denver Public Health and Environment, in an email.

The message is clear: if you want a rat, a gerbil, a guinea pig or a turtle, avoid the pet stores and come to the refuge instead. As of Wednesday morning, 64 small animals were awaiting adoption. Two years ago, they were only 23.

The shelter is in desperate need of help.

“This is where the community comes in,” Alice Nightengale, director of Denver Animal Protection, said in a statement. “Before buying a small animal from a pet store, please check with an animal shelter first as there are a lot of needs there. The prices are often more affordable too, and you will be helping an animal in need.

The starting price from the refuge for a new small animal: $ 15.

Denver Animal Protection has cautioned pet buyers to spend some time with the animals they intend to adopt, lest they find out too late that they are allergic and must. return the animal they tried to save. After all, allergies are one of the biggest reasons people give up on their pets.

Owning a small pet is no easy task, the agency warned. Snakes and lizards should be near electrical outlets to power heat lamps and stones; domestic turtles must live in large tanks that can hold 10 gallons of water per inch of carapace; and rabbits, which are incredibly delicate creatures that can be easily injured, need a lot of space over a lifespan of up to 13 years.

While the wave of small animals is particularly turbulent, the shelter sees more large animals than usual with 126 cats and 151 dogs, up from 96 cats and 95 dogs in 2019.

For those who cannot take new pets, the shelter also encourages people to take in non-housed animals and volunteer.

To adopt a pet, large or small, visit the Denver Animal Shelter website.

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