Few pets available for adoption at P.E.I. Humane Society

If you go to the P.E.I. Humane Society's web page to adopt an animal right now, you won't have a lot of choices.

'We've been really good at our jobs'

This cat was adopted after being on the P.E.I. Humane Society's website for under five minutes. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

If you go to the P.E.I. Humane Society's web page to adopt an animal right now, you won't have a lot of choices — as of Wednesday morning, only seven animals were available. 

Shelter staff say it's a trend that happily, has been growing for the past few years. 

"Adoptions have certainly been up, definitely with dogs — we've seen that trend for quite a while — but even with cats now. We're seeing more and more people wanting to come in and adopt cats," said Jennifer Harkness, Development Manager with the society. 

The number of animals at the shelter can change quickly but Harkness said the general trend is that they are receiving fewer animals.

'First stop'

There could be a number of reasons, she said: pet owners are taking better care of their animals and are spaying and neutering, people can buy pets online from breeders, and adopting from shelters has become popular too. 

Empty cages are a trend at animal shelters across the country, Harkness says. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

"I think that there is a real public awareness out there about organizations like the P.E.I. Humane Society or SPCAs across the country, knowing that there are homeless animals that need homes.

"And so people are now making this their first stop, whereas maybe years ago they didn't."

Once animals in the shelter's care are advertised for adoption, the process to adopt can be very competitive — sometimes animals are homed within hours, Harkness said. 

"We've been really good at our jobs," she said.

The lack of animals shows awareness programs urging spaying and neutering, microchipping and licensing are paying off. 

A shift in focus 

Harkness recently attended the National Animal Welfare conference, where she heard the same story from shelters across the country.

'People are now making this their first stop, whereas maybe years ago they didn't,' says Jennifer Harkness with the P.E.I. Humane Society. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

The animal shortage is leading the organizations to think about what the future holds. But Harkness doesn't see the need for them disappearing any time soon.

"People are looking to our organizations to be more of a community care organization, to be leaders in animal welfare, to provide animal protection and enforcement, to provide education and training," Harkness said.

"So that's what we're looking at in our strategic plan — how do we change with the times and how do we become a better organization to help more animals?"

But with more focus on animal welfare and rehabilitation comes more costs for surgery and caring for the animals longer. 

Even though animal intake is down in shelters, Harkness said the cost has gone up 150 percent since the 2000's.

"We're going to depend more and more on our community to fund our shelter organizations and our SPCAs and Humane Societies, and most of those are not funded by government. So that certainly brings its own challenge," she said. 

"But that's what we really want to do as we move towards looking at each animal as an individual and how do we help that animal and change their life."

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Natalia Goodwin

Video Journalist

Natalia is a multi-platform journalist in Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.