Tatiana crouched in the corner of the animal visiting room and looked out the window with her large green eyes. Dawn Pieper, an Oakland Animal Services (OAS) Cat Mentor, patted Tatiana’s soft Calico fur as she mewed. Pieper then picked up Trina, a grey cat with a head tilt and a clipped tail, and set her on her lap.
These cats are two of many new residents at OAS who came to the shelter because their owner could no longer afford to take care of them.
“Normally, animals are surrendered by their guardians,” Pieper said as she scratched Trina behind her ears, “but in their case they were surrendered by a property manager of an apartment because their guardian was evicted. He left the cats behind, so the property manager brought them in.”
OAS is an open admission shelter that takes in all animals brought in by the public or an animal control officer. “We’ve seen a significant uptake in the number of owner surrenders,” said Rebecca Katz, director of the shelter. “Gentrification has been good for Oakland’s economy, but there are people who are impacted by it negatively and there are people losing their homes.”
Though there are not yet hard statistics as to how many owner surrenders are due to rising rents in Oakland, Katz has noticed an upsurge in people dropping off pets they can no longer afford to house. Pets like Tatiana and Trina once had a loving home, but now have to wait for someone who can afford them in a pet-friendly rental.
This month, the shelter is having a $14 “Valentine’s Day” adoption special on all pets including dogs, cats and rabbits. The special lasts throughout the entire month of February. The usual adoption fee for dogs is $135 and for cats is $35. Katz hopes the special will make it easier for more people to take home “the love of their life.”
According to Katz, OAS had a live release rate—animals coming in and leaving alive—of 84 percent last year, compared to the national average release rate of 40 percent. The shelter, though, is currently over capacity, which means that the workers at OAS are struggling to make space for incoming animals, especially dogs. This could lower the live release rate as resources grow thin. Pieper said it’s preferred that dogs have their own individual cages, but many of the dogs have to share cages.
This adoption special, though, won’t last forever, and Katz urges landlords to revisit their pet policies and allow more renters to own pets in their complexes. As rents for pet-friendly apartments continue to rise, more and more animals like Trina and Tatiana will have to call OAS their temporary home.
“Many of our animals frankly have been family members,” Katz said. “These are family pets that want a new family and they’re not street animals. They’re loving, wonderful animals and are ready for a new home.”