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Animal shelters are stuck between a rock and a hard place with decreased donations

Katheryn Eastman Cury (Left) and Elena Vargas (Right) at the Laramie Animal Welfare Society holding a cat.
Eric Vigil
Wyoming Public Media
Katheryn Eastman Cury (Left) and Elena Vargas (Right) at the Laramie Animal Welfare Society.

Elena Vargas and Katheryn Eastman Cury work at the Laramie Animal Welfare Society (LAWS). LAWS connects adopters, owners, and animals in need to local resources.

They rely on foster homes for animal intake and care. They also rely on social media to facilitate donations and adoptions but it’s changed.

“That's the way it used to be, 2020, 2021 even 2022, we would see pretty good success with our social media posts,” Eastman Cury said. “And in the past year, it has just really decreased. And I think we’ve seen a 66 percent decrease in donations over the past year. We’ve also seen a 70 percent decrease in adoptions over the past year.”

Americans are increasingly unsure about the future and current state of the United States economy. A survey from the Pew Research Center, a bipartisan think tank that conducts public opinion polling, found that just 19 percent of those polled think the economic conditions of the United States today is excellent or good.

This lack of confidence in the economy is having drastic effects on nonprofits. As Americans become more frugal with their spending, according to Giving USA they gave the lowest percentage of their disposable incomes to charity in 2022 since 1995.

In Wyoming, non-profit private animal shelters have not been immune. Craig Cummins, the Executive Director of the Casper Humane Society (CHS), said the CHS is seeing a decrease in resources.

“A lot of our regular monthly donors are needing to either decrease or they’re discontinuing their monthly donation,” Cummins said. “Quite a few people are moving out of the state, and some people have just said that the economy is not great and everything is so expensive that they just can't afford to donate anymore.”

The CHS is also under the strain of an increasing number of animals under their care. Cummins pointed to the high number of return adoptions as to why. In any normal year accepting return adoptions doesn't interfere with taking in community animals, but now it's making that increasingly difficult.

“It’s a double-edged sword there, where I think it’s the right thing to do to make sure that the animals that we adopt have a place to go. But at the same time, it’s creating a high demand for the space that we have,” Cummins said.

The CHS had 13 returned adoptions in the month of July, an unusually high number for the shelter.

Alicia Bruce is the events and outreach coordinator at Park County Animal Shelter (PCAS). She’s been having difficulty putting on community events.

“I’ve been going around asking for sponsorships, and even local businesses just don’t have the money right now to sponsor these events,” she said.

Community events are crucial to getting pets connected with their forever homes. Alisa Bruce, the Events and Marketing Coordinator at the PCAS, said they had to stop accepting animals on June 21. At their peak capacity, they had 185 animals under their care between their on-site facilities and within their foster network. They can only have 85 animals on site.

PCAS participated in the national Bissell Pet Foundation adoption event where adoption fees would be decreased with the help from the foundation to make it easier for people to adopt. The Cheyenne Animal Shelter also participated in the event.

Niki Harrison who works at the Cheyenne Animal Shelter said the timing of the event is perfect.

“It was at a perfect time for us when we hit that peak of summer when our capacity was just at an all-time high, typically through the month of July,” she said. “So to have that adoption event come in simultaneously as all the kittens who are in foster homes start coming back into the shelter to be adopted, or as the increased number of stray animals we see continues to rise, it was a really successful event.”

Over 200 animals were adopted through the event. The Cheyenne Animal Shelter has been able to keep its donation numbers up and the number of animals in its shelter down. A unique situation that they are grateful to find themselves in.

Harrison has cited their use of social media and how they are ingrained in the Cheyenne Community as the reason why. Social media has become crucial to keeping the community engaged and aware of events and adoptions.

Cummins said that the reach of their Facebook has even been outside of Wyoming.

“I mean everybody likes pictures of puppies and kittens and things like that. So It’s pretty easy to get their attention that way,” she said. “And luckily, we’re pretty fortunate to have a good following on Facebook. And So it can spread pretty far. And almost all of those animals get adopted fairly quickly.”

With economic difficulty, everyone is affected, but Cummins of the Casper Humane Society pointed out that those who work at animal shelters are especially vulnerable.

“I have a shelter manager who says all the time, “You know, it’s not like we’re at the mall folding T-shirts, you know, these are living breathing creatures and they depend on us. And it’s, you know, important work.” And so, yeah, we take it personally,” he said.

The animal shelters' hope lies in the community around them to come and support them as they have supported so many animals.

Eric is a third-year student at the University of Wyoming. He is majoring in both political science and journalism. Eric feels local media is extremely important in keeping communities whole. Giving local non-profits and listeners a voice on the radio is something he's happy to be a part of. Eric hopes to continue refining his skills at WPM to help local media in the future.
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