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'A tough time' | Empty The Shelters comes as pets struggle to find homes

Adoptions at the Muskegon Humane Society are down around 40% in 2021, but the executive director hopes an upcoming event will help.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — As the weather turns cold, hundreds of pets are looking for a warm home — warm both in the literal sense and the sense that they'll have a wonderful place to call their own for the rest of their lives.

But as 2021 comes to a close, Muskegon Humane Society executive director Alexis Ogborn says that search is becoming a taller task both for pets and for the shelter workers and volunteers who have dedicated their lives to helping animals.

In 2020, many people started working from home and figured it would be the perfect time to adopt a pet. It was one of the best years for adoption numbers at the Muskegon Humane Society. Now that more people are back in their normal workspaces, those adoption numbers have plummeted.

On top of that, the Humane Society has seen a surge in surrenders because of the end of a federal eviction moratorium and other housing complications.

"I know a lot of local apartment complexes have changed their policies recently, and then with people going back to work, it's a crazy time right now," Ogborn said.

"It's a tough time. It's a dangerous time for shelters not to be able to take in animals. If we're not able to, the animals may freeze. So it's a lot of pressure to make sure adoptions are happening and animals are coming in safely."

Fortunately for shelters like the Humane Society, the Bissell Pet Foundation's Empty The Shelters program is holding its Holiday Hope Event from Dec. 6 through 12 at 200 participating shelters across 40 states. The event helps reduce adoption fees so that more pets are placed in loving homes.

"We love Empty The Shelters events. It just brings awareness to shelters and shining big lights on everybody waiting for forever homes," Ogborn said.

While Ogborn does want to help pets in the Humane Society find homes, she also wants people to keep commitment in mind when they make the choice to adopt so pets don't end up back in the shelter in a few months.

"Puppies are great as gifts, but they're more than than just one day. They're going to need a lifetime of care, so definitely think before you adopt or bring a new pet into your home," she said.

You can find a list of participating shelters on the Bissell Pet Foundation's website.

The Muskegon Humane Society is also hoping to raise money by selling pet themed ornaments on its Etsy page through December 11.

"They're really fun. There's a memorial one with wings that's acrylic, clear and beautiful. Then there's one that's round with Santa that has dogs on his sleigh. It's really sweet," Ogborn said.

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