The Denver Animal Shelter is overcrowded with small animals, housing more than double the number of rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and turtles this year than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The shelter announced the overcrowding in a release Wednesday, urging residents to consider adopting some of its small animals.
“Before you buy a small animal from a pet store, please check with an animal shelter first because there is a lot of need there,” said Alice Nightengale, director of Denver Animal Protection, which oversees the shelter. “Prices are often more affordable too, and you’ll help a pet in need.”
Nightengale said the costs to adopt small animals at the shelter start at $15.
Currently, 64 small animals are living at the shelter, compared to 23 at this time in 2019, the release said. This influx has forced the shelter to repurpose areas typically used for larger animals for the small ons.
In addition to the small animals, the shelter is housing 126 cats and 151 dogs. At this time in 2019, the shelter housed 96 cats and 95 dogs, the release said.
This comes as other animal shelters in the Denver metro area and nationwide are reporting an increase in owners returning pets adopted during the pandemic.
In the past few months, the Denver Dumb Friends League, Denver MaxFund Adoption Center and Humane Society of Weld County have all said they reached or were nearing full capacity because of drastic increases in surrendered pets.
To prevent new adopters from surrendering small pets, Nightengale suggests spending time with the type of animal before adopting it to make sure there are no allergies. Pets bought from pet stores can also often be returned instead of taken to shelters.
“While small animals are perceived to be easier to care for than dogs or cats, they do have unique habits and needs,” the release said. “It’s important to understand the needs of your future pet before making the commitment to give them a home.”
According to the shelter, rabbits need a lot of space, gentle handling and fresh greens, hay and pellets. Turtles need a tank big enough for 10 gallons of water for every inch of their shell length. Snakes and lizards need heat lamps and rocks to regulate and maintain their body temperatures.
In addition to adopters, the Denver Animal Shelter said it is also seeking people to temporarily foster homeless pets and people to work and volunteer at the shelter.
For more information on adopting a pet or regarding any of these opportunities, visit denvergov.org.