Coastal Pet Rescue sees increase in owner surrenders during pandemic

Clear the Shelters

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Lisa Scarborough is no stranger to animals. She’s loved them since she was a child, moving her to found nonprofit Coastal Pet Rescue in February 2003.

But the job doesn’t come without heartbreak and frustration.

“We have a lot of losses,” Scarborough said. “But when we have wins, they are incredible wins and you feel so amazed at the transformation that has gone on with that animal.”

Scarborough said in her 20 years of working in animal rescue, this year has been the hardest. Coastal Pet Rescue has seen an increase in owner surrenders, with 98% of their animals coming from people who could no longer take care of them.

“We had so many owner surrender requests daily,” she said. “Our voicemail box was filling up every single day — and that’s not including the messages through our Facebook page or email addresses. We just could not keep up with the requests for people to relinquish animals to us.”

“We were receiving so many kitten litters,” Scarborough continued. “Unfortunately, numerous of them were actually being taped up on boxes and left on our doorstep.”

Animals were surrendered for a host of reasons: people moving, hoarding pets or owners dying of COVID-19. The pandemic is also having an impact on the shelter’s efforts.

“It’s been extremely overwhelming for us,” Scarborough said. “Our resources have been absolutely taxed. We haven’t been able to do any major fundraisers because of off-site events being so limited. And people are struggling in their own personal lives, so we’re not getting the donations we used to have.”

On any given day, up to 60 animals live on-site at Coastal Pet Rescue. The ratio of cats to dogs is about 50/50, according to Scarborough. But dogs tend to get adopted faster, with an average stay of one to two months.

So far this year, 405 cats and dogs have been adopted from the shelter. Currently, Coastal Pet Rescue is in need of volunteers, fosters and money donations.

Learn how you can get involved at coastalpetrescue.org.

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