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Pets Aren’t Being Surrendered Due to Owners Returning to the Office—Here’s the Real Reason

Pet surrenders to shelters are at an all-time high in the United States, but it's not because people are returning to the office. Here's the real reason.

Written by
Tehrene Firman

While remote work is still the norm for many individuals, others are returning to the office at a rapid rate. According to a survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 7.7% of workers were working remotely in April 2022—a stark difference from the 35% working remotely in May 2020.

At the same time as people returning to the office, there's been an uptick in owner surrenders of pets to animal shelters. But while it seems like the two go hand-in-hand, Seattle Humane is setting the record straight. It's purely coincidence, and there are other factors at play that are causing shelters to become overwhelmed.

"In 2022, we're seeing an increase in pet owners seeking to rehome their pets, and shelters across the country are seeing this same trend. However, we don’t believe that this increase is because people are going back to the office," says Brandon Macz, the Public Relations and Social Media Specialist at Seattle Humane. "In fact, downtown Seattle’s office occupancy rate is currently below 40%. From our perspective, this trend is instead being driven by increasing levels of financial and housing insecurity."

According to Macz, the real reason behind pet surrenders is the current economic instability in the United States. Families have come to realize it's hard enough to take care of themselves, let alone their pets. Because of these financial hardships, thousands have made the very difficult decision to surrender their pets—they're no longer able to take care of them, and they want them to be with a family that can provide that support.

"Nationally, the number of monthly owner surrenders climbed from 34,579 in January to 43,249 in May. There have been more than 4,300 pets surrendered by their owners in Washington so far this year," Macz says. "[At Seattle Humane], the number of pets we’ve accepted due to housing insecurity in 2022 has nearly reached the total intakes due to housing concerns in all of 2021. At this rate, we can project the number of pets surrendered this year related to housing issues will far exceed our total in 2021."

While Macz says people returning to the office isn't contributing to the high numbers of animals being surrendered to shelters, he does think it could be a factor that's preventing people from adopting a pet. People have less time for a pet that needs more care or attention related to behavior or medical conditions. This is resulting in a bottleneck in the sheltering system.

So, what can you do to help? First, if you have the time and means to adopt, that's one of the best ways you can help. But if that's not an option at this time in your life, there are still other ways to make an impact.

Donations to animal shelters—even small ones—greatly add up when it comes to providing these surrendered animals with the best possible care. Macz says you can also drop off pet food, cat litter, and other supplies, or donate animals through a shelter's Amazon Wish List. "Pet food and supplies are always in high demand—more so now than ever before," he says.

If you want to adopt but are dealing with the same situation as many—returning to an office—Macz has a solution for that, too.

"We recently teamed up with our friends at Trupanion to encourage and provide resources to help more businesses create dog-friendly workplaces," he says. "You can learn more about the 'Working K9 to 5' program here and pass it on to your Human Resources department."

Every animal deserves to be cuddled up on the couch with their favorite human. And with your help, more cats and dogs can find their forever homes.