Surge in pet surrenders leaves Tacoma Humane over max capacity

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — Editor’s note: The Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County had initially said the shelter was receiving an average of 212 animals a day. On Friday, shelter officials said that number was incorrect and that the average number of pets received daily from January to July 2022 was actually 23. However, the shelter currently has more than 200 animals that need medical care.


People are forced to give up their pets – that’s the latest impact of rising rents and increases in costs of living. And it’s more than shelters can handle. The Humane Society says there’s no more room, especially in Pierce County.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Humane Society says that so far this year, 23 companion animals are coming through their doors every day – from stray cats and lost dogs from animal control to people who need to surrender their pets.

Now they’re pleading for help and urging people considering a pet adoption to make that happen now.

That’s exactly what Torie Brannen did after hearing about the shelter’s situation.

“I just adopted Crackers. She’s a little kitten,” Brannen said. “I’ve been wanting to adopt a cat for a long time and I got a little teary in there just thinking about it. Their shelters were really full and it just seemed like a sign.”

The shelter is currently working on a campaign to clear out the shelter by offering deep discounts on the traditional pet adoption fees that can cost hundreds of dollars. Until the end of August, adopting an adult cat costs $25, and an adult dog $50.

Lindsey Heaney says the effort is bringing in many families, which is already starting to help. But their shelter is still bursting at the seams.

“Usually we’re able to have 300 animals, and we’re caring for over 700. So thankfully, we have a lot of foster homes to help out with that,” Heaney said.

The pet support team at Tacoma Humane works with families who need to surrender their pets.

“It’s always a heartbreaking scenario,” said Marley Weiss, a pet support team member.

The shelter says one big reason fueling the surge in pets they’re seeing is rent hikes forcing people to move. Those costs are on top of things like pet fees and breed restrictions.

“Being able to find a pet-friendly place at a cost they can afford,” Heaney said.

“People having to work two jobs because things are getting so ridiculously expensive you just don’t have the time,” Weiss said about some of the cases she has seen.

Last year, Tacoma saw the highest rent increase by percentage in Western Washington - nearly 19%. As of July 2022, Apartment List showed the year-to-year rent hike was 9% – lower but still significant.

Then there are the vet costs that catch people off guard, which have also been contributing to the surge of people giving up pets.

“Having puppies and kittens are expensive. It’s like having a baby,” Weiss said. “People don’t know about pet insurance and it’s hard to manage those expenses you’re not thinking about right away, like a broken leg or kennel cough or senior dogs.”

New kitten parent, Brannen, agrees the increased cost of living has been a challenge. Her nonrefundable pet deposit cost $400.

“So unfortunately pricey,” Brannen said. “It’ll be worth it. Cats live for up to 20 years, so she’s going to be a friend for a long time.”

If you need help paying for pet food or even certain medical expenses, Tacoma Humane might be able to help in a way that lets you keep your pet. People can support Tacoma-Pierce County Humane Society by visiting https://www.thehumanesociety.org/.