As many face housing challenges, pets are at risk of surrender

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A story in Greek mythology details how Poseidon and Athena didn’t really get along, but that’s not the case at Samantha Boley’s home. Her two dogs — Poseidon and Athena — are the best of friends.

“Together, they just mesh so well,” Boley explained. She’s had her furbabies for the last two years and never imagined she would end up in a position where she would have to find her beloved pets a new home.

Poseidon and Athena sleeping at home. (Source: Samantha Boley)

Boley is not alone, many have had to do the same. In March, the Austin Animal Center reports they had 224 pet surrenders — the highest number of surrenders they have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are struggling to get on their feet and they feel like in the best interest of the pet that they want to surrender it, it’s not usually that, ‘Oh, I just can’t deal with it.’ It’s a very hard decision they’ve made,” Kelsey Cler, the shelter’s Pet Resource Center’s supervisor said.

Cler said most of the cases are due in part to the looming eviction crisis. While some are circumstantial, such as Boley’s case where she said things simply did not work out.

“It ended up not working out to where we could get an apartment that didn’t have breed restrictions,” Boley said.

Boley did not lose her job because of the pandemic. She continued to work for months in the healthcare industry, conducting COVID-19 tests. However, when Boley got pregnant her family decided it was time for a bigger apartment. At the time, she remained without a job as she was home with her new baby and unfortunately, was unable to return to work in time to provide proof of income to an apartment complex where breed restrictions were not a stipulation. She said because of this, and the financial challenges faced while out of a job her family ended up in an income-based apartment complex with breed restrictions.

Cler said that’s just another example of the situations that are causing a spike in pet surrenders. Those at the center worry the surrenders could skyrocket once the eviction moratorium is lifted.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said.

In February, Cler said they began conducting consultations with pet owners in hopes of finding a solution for the pet before resorting to surrendering. That includes guiding pet owners to find their furry loved ones a new home. Boley said she tried that for Poseidon and Athena, but it did not work out.

Those at the center added they tend to have a little more trouble finding a home for bigger dogs and specific breeds like Pitbull. They’re asking the community for help and calling on people to foster and even adopt. Boley hopes someone will come through for her two canines.

“Just because a Pitbull is an adult in a shelter, give them a chance,” she said. “Just because they’re a Pitbull and they’re seen as aggressive, just give a Pitbull a chance. They’re the most loyal dogs and they’re great.”

Thursday morning, the Austin Animal Center will host a puppy adoption event from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Then, they will host another event on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Both events will take place at the center and are open to the public. Officials say they will not require anyone to make an appointment and all adoption fees are being waived at both events.

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