Until the end of the year, Merced County animal rescuers will continue to see an uptick in the amount of dogs and cats they have to find homes for-- and a lot of it has to do with the holiday season.
People are traveling, family and friends are going to each other’s houses for celebrations, and often people decide they don’t want or have time for their pets anymore, said Sharon Lohman, president of New Beginnings for Merced County Animals, an organization that transports animals to shelters.
“Kids are begging for a kitten or a puppy but don’t realize what a huge commitment it is financially or time wise,” she told the Sun-Star in an interview.
There is an increase in pets that need homes two times every year, Lohman said, during the summer and from Thanksgiving to New Year's. A lot of the time it’s because they’re not wanted, she said, but “more often than I’d think” people lose their homes and can’t afford or house their pets anymore.
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After the closing of the Merced SPCA in February, animals in the county are in the hands of New Beginnings and the Merced County Animal Shelter. It’s been reported that shelters in Merced County have felt the weight of their closure, and with business picking up in the last month, more foster homes are needed.
“The number of dogs (we are) asked to take are far beyond what is normally requested from us,” Lohman said. “(Merced) SPCA took cats and kittens and this year it’s really been noticeable because there's been a lot more, we’re finally caught up.”
Just this week, New Beginnings picked up 12 dogs from one house and seven from another, Lohman said.
The county shelter has had more animals than usual coming in since the Merced SPCA closure, said Daryl Allen, public information officer for the shelter, although it hasn’t been unmanageable.
Although the county shelter does all it can to avoid euthanizing animals, it happens, officials said. During the 2014-15 fiscal year, the county shelter euthanized about 40 percent of their animals, according to data on their website, which is the lowest it has been since the 2008-9 fiscal year.
Since New Beginnings doesn't have a facility and relies on community members to foster the animals they take in while they wait to be transported, the Merced SPCA was a big help in taking in some of their animals, Lohman said, especially animals who were injured, pregnant or had a litter of puppies or kittens.
“We felt the impact,” she said. “We always need more fosters.” “They (Merced SPCA) also would help with medical issues animals have a lot of times,” Lohman added.
Last year, New Beginnings spent about $40,000 on animal medical needs, Lohman said; this year, more than $60,000 has been spent already.
The nonprofit also pays for all the animals they get to be spayed or neutered. Another issue during the holiday season is when pets are gifted to people who don’t necessarily want the responsibilities that go with being a pet owner, Lohman said, and many animals end up in a shelter or on the street.
Still, owners not spaying and neutering their animals is still the “number one” problem when it comes to stray animals in Merced County, Lohman said.
On Saturday, New Beginnings will have their annual bake sale at Bear Creek Galleria from 10 a.m. to 4. There will also be a raffle. On Sunday is their 25th Annual Christmas Home Tour, where community members can tour four decorated homes in Merced.
The tour ends at Gateway Gardens and tickets are $15. People can buy lunch for an additional $10. Christmas Home Tour tickets can be bought at Santa Fe Pet Hospital, Christina’s Fine Clothing, Valley Animal Hospital and Expressions of Love Floral.
All proceeds go toward the services New Beginnings offers. More information can be found at www.newbeginningsforanimalsmerced.org/.
Monica Velez: 209-385-2486, @monicavelez21