Winter can be bleak for animal shelters, although there are bright spots.
“Shelter work is a very seasonal business,” said Debra Quackenbush, spokeswoman for McHenry County Animal Control and Adoption Center. “You no longer just come in, sign some papers and leave with an animal. Everyone tries to match an animal with the right family.”
Last year was a mixed bag for shelters in McHenry County when it came to animal intake and adoption rates.
Animal Control saw about an 8 percent drop in dog intake last fiscal year compared with 2011. The number of dogs deemed strays, relinquished or rescued was 875, down from 949.
A similar decline was seen in the number of cats taken in. A total of 606 cats were deemed strays, relinquished or rescued in 2012, down from 661 in 2011.
Animals that were redeemed by their owners or adopted fell to 60 percent from 67 percent in 2011. In numbers, 1,087 of 1,610 animals were placed, compared with 893 of 1,481 animals in 2011.
Within those figures, Quackenbush said, is an uptick in animals recovered by their owners because of microchipping.
“Owners are being a little more responsible,” she said. “These pets are family members, and if they are lost of taken, the chances of finding them is much higher if they have a microchip.”
Euthanasia of cats and dogs dropped 18 percent in 2012 from 462 to 377.
Most euthanasia occurs because of severe illness, health problems, injury or aggressive and dangerous behaviors, Quackenbush said. “There’s always a medical reason. We do everything in our power to be sure an animal is healthy and able to be adopted.”
The transfer of animals to other caregivers – usually breed-specific shelters where the chances of adoption are much higher – has increased slightly in the past two years but accounts for only a small percentage of Animal Control’s animals, Quackenbush said.
Staff at the Crystal Lake based Assisi Animal Foundation, a no-kill shelter, said that in 2012 it took in about 23 more animals than the previous year, with adoptions up by nearly 40 percent. The shelter placed 40 of 41 animals it received in November and December, data show.
“Incoming animals continue to increase because of the state of the economy,” co-founder and director Lee Linklater said. “We are treading water, but moving ahead.”
Assisi relies on private donations and fundraisers for food, veterinary bills, supplies and maintenance of its facility off Lucas Road, where the animals mostly are discarded or abandoned pets.
During winter, the business focuses on special events to increase adoptions, Linklater said. Returning clients also keep the business afloat.
At the Animal House Shelter in Huntley, the nonprofit in 2012 took in 2,305 animals, down from 2,556 in 2011. The business can house 200 dogs and 80 cats, and uses foster homes for younger litters and animals with special needs.
Promoting adoption in wintery months is more difficult because of less daylight and cold temperatures, shelter director Cindy Ritter said. But in November and December of the past two years, the no-kill Animal House has adopted out more animals than it has taken in – 901 adoptions and 739 new animals in 2012.
“We fill up every last inch of space and available foster homes to rescue as many animals as possible,” Ritter said. “More people seem to be having to give up their animals because of financial problems, but others are stepping up and adopting because they want to do the right thing.”