Chicago area animal shelters fill up as pandemic pets are returned, hurricane rescues arrive

CHICAGO (WLS) -- People are giving up pets they brought home during the pandemic, filling animal shelters amid a veterinarian shortage.

PAWS Chicago, a no-kill shelter that works with Chicago Animal Care and Control to find homes for pets, are already seeing an increase in part of all the people who got pets during the pandemic and are now giving them up.

"We have been hearing from them that they are near or at capacity so we have been pulling more cats and dogs because there is more need," said Susanna Homan, CEO of PAWS.

"Some people adopted animals during COVID and now they're going back to work and there's separation anxiety," said Brian Krajewski, DuPage Animal Service Committee.

This has been exacerbated as Chicago animal shelters have taken in cats and dogs rescued from natural disasters like Hurricane Ida. Krajewski said DuPage County is also seeing a big increase in animals coming into the shelter; not just dogs but cats too.

On top of all of that, this is a time when veterinarians to treat the animals are increasingly difficult to find.

"With the combination of more adoptions and a little slower with the animals we've ended up with a vet shortage," said Dr. Emily Swiniarski, PAWS veterinarian.

PAWS is among many animal hospitals looking to hire veterinarians, both in the standard practice and non-profit settings. Foster pet parents waiting to take dogs and cats in on a temporary basis are also in high demand.

"We're seeing an increased need now for sure," Homan said.

PAWS has a list of thousands willing to foster dogs and cats, but the need is so great right now they say they could use a lot more.
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