New Yorkers love their pets, especially dogs. Step out onto the streets of the city during the day, and you’re guaranteed to see people taking their four-legged friends out for a walk.

But animal advocates told FOX 5 NY that the cost of living in the city is not only driving out people but also forcing them to give up their pets, causing overcrowding at NYC animal shelters to crisis levels.

“What we’re seeing is that people can’t afford to live in New York City,” said Katy Hansen, director of marketing & communications for the Animal Care Centers of New York City. “People cannot afford to live in New York City. And if you can’t afford to live in New York City, you can’t afford to have a pet, unfortunately.”

Credit: Animal Care Centers of New York City

In an interview with FOX 5 NY, Hansen said that the city has reached an alarming new high rate of pet surrenders and abandonment. According to Hansen, Animal Care Centers ideally have room for 185 dogs but are now caring for over 300. 

RELATED: NYC’s animal shelters filled to capacity

The length of stays for animals has increased too. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the average was five to seven days. Now, it’s soared to 15 to 20 days.

And much like with groceries or back-to-school supplies, inflation is driving the costs up beyond people’s means, Hansen said.

RELATED: How much money you need to ‘live comfortably’ in NYC

“We know inflation hit the middle and lower class really heavy. And with pet care and pet food, that went up even higher than the rate of inflation, so that pet food went up like 30%. So if you’re living paycheck to paycheck already, and food and services go up 30%, what are you going to do? Your salary’s not going up 30%. And so people just started bringing their pets in,” Hansen said. 

And the problem isn’t just in New York City. It’s nationwide. According to National Animal Welfare Statistics, 6.5 million animals entered shelters in 2023, with just over 6 million leaving. Between 2022 and 2023, the number of animals waiting to get out of shelters increased by 177,000. 

Credit: Animal Care Centers of New York City

The ACC had previously issued a temporary suspension on pet intake due to the overwhelming number of surrenders and abandonments in the past. But despite that, pets continue to come in.

“We’re open admissions. We take them all, even when we closed,” Hansen said. “We were restricted, and we still took in thousands of animals.”

With limited space, staff at the ACC have been forced to house dogs in hallways, using cages that would normally be used for cats, she said. This raises fears over what will need to be done in the summer months when abandonments and surrenders generally go up.

Credit: Animal Care Centers of New York City

“It’s also hard on staff. We have the same number of staff, even though our shelter population is almost double,” Hansen said. “We can’t spend as much time with each animal as we would like, animals get stressed, because they’re not getting out as much. And then the stress will weaken their immune system, and then they get sick. So it’s just compounding problems, one on top of the other on top of the other.”

Credit: Animal Care Centers of New York City

Despite the extent of the challenges, support from the community and initiatives such as the foster program and collaborations with over 300 rescue groups are helping alleviate some of the pressure, Hansen said. The ACC is also opening two new facilities in Queens and Manhattan.

But at the end of the day, Hansen said that making sure people in New York City can actually afford their pets is most important.

“Long term, what we really need to do is have some type of low care, low-cost veterinary services to provide to New Yorkers,” Hansen said. “And it’s probably a combination of private and public assistance for that because people love their pets, but it’s really expensive.”

Despite the ongoing financial challenges of owning a pet in New York City, the value of having a paw-tner in your home can’t be beaten, Hansen said.

“You really can’t match the love of a pet. And just having another heartbeat in your house. Just can make you feel safe. And just knowing you come home every day and there’s someone wagging your tail. It does make you feel a lot better,” she said.

If you are interested in adopting a pet from the Animal Care Centers of New York City, visit the ACC website or email [email protected] If you are interested in volunteering at the Animal Care Centers of New York City, you can visit the volunteering page of their website.


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