UTAH (ABC4) – A cardboard box of bunnies on the doorstep of a local daycare. A bulldog left behind at a South Jordan shelter. And two cardboard boxes of cats left outside the Humane Society of Utah. These are just some of the many animals that have been abandoned in recent weeks, according to the Humane Society. Rates of pet abandonment in Utah are increasing, and as winter nears, it could mean danger for the animals.

“People seem increasingly desperate,” says Juli Ulvestad, director of shelter operations at the Humane Society of Utah. “I think the reasons are pandemic-related.”

Access to vet care last year was limited. Not only were vets overwhelmed due to the surplus of new pets and adoptions, the increased demand for PPE and specific drugs – and the prioritization of human medical care over that of animals – rendered some operations impossible during lockdowns. Among these postponed operations: spaying and neutering and the administration of vaccines.

“We’re seeing more sick animals in addition to more baby animals,” Ulvestad says.

Both boxes of cats found at the Humane Society were left with notes, describing the circumstances of the surrenders. In both cases, more kittens were born into the home than could be cared for, and the owners received backlash from their respective landlords for housing an excess of animals.  

Although the Humane Society is empathetic to the dire situations that cause owners to surrender their animals, they discourage abandonment, specifically at this time of year.

“People obviously love their animals and they don’t want to [abandon them] and they think that bringing them to an animal shelter is the safest place,” says Ulvestad. “But they put them in harm’s way because they’re in a cardboard box in freezing cold temperatures and then are discovered by dogs on our property, rather than human beings.”

Courtesy: Humane Society of Utah

If you are planning to surrender your animal to the shelter, Ulvestad recommends scheduling a call with the Humane Society ahead of time to discuss the next steps.

“If [the animal is] safe currently in your home and they have a warm environment, but your landlord is saying you have to stop [housing them], give us a call,” she says.

Ulvestad even notes that the Humane Society provides letters to landlords as soon as an intake date for unwanted animals is established. The facility also provides spay/neuter operations, vaccines, and a pet food pantry to help pet owners facing financial hardships.

Currently, the Humane Society of Utah is experiencing short staffing as well as facility crowding and a high call volume. However, Ulvestad says the staff is equipped to help everyone in need, though the process may take a little longer than usual.

“There are resources available, we just need to have time to work out a solution,” Ulvestad says.