PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida — County officials say that there are too many dogs and cats in St. Lucie County animal shelters. They said that families have to give up their pets because they are being kicked out of their homes or can’t pay the rent.
“We probably get between 20 and 30 calls a day from people who want to give up their pets or want to know how to do so. “I have also talked to the city of Port St. Lucie, and they are having the same problems,” said Maria Valencia, who is in charge of animal safety for St. Lucie County. “Most of the time, it’s because people are moving out. It has a lot to do with the economy and money.”
The same thing was also said by the head of the Humane Society of St. Lucie County.
Glenn Camilio said, “We’ve had a lot of business from the city of Port St. Lucie.” “It’s too expensive for them to keep them.”
The news didn’t surprise Sgt. Angela Flowers of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, though. The deputy in charge of the office’s Civil Execution Unit said that the number of eviction notices served by deputies has gone up a lot.
Flowers said that deputies served 991 notices to leave in 2022. In the last six weeks, deputies have already served 173 eviction notices. If this keeps up, the sheriff’s office will have served 500 more eviction notices than the year before.
Flowers said, “There are a lot of different reasons why the demand for housing has gone up so much in this area in the last few years, but that’s making the cost of housing go up.”
Zumper, a rental site, says that the average cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in Port St. Lucie as of February 4 is $1,850. This is 54% more than the same time last year. Port St. Lucie renters are paying 8% more this month than they did in January, and shelters are also feeling the effects.
“Everyone is too busy right now,” Flowers said. “Just this morning, 44 dogs came in.”
Camilio said that the dogs who were given up are also having to pay the price.
“This is the look,” Camilio said, pointing at a dog named Leila whose owner had just given her up because of money problems. “When they walk in, they don’t know why they’re here. Dogs get anxiety, they get depressed just like we do.”
Camilio said that about 50 percent of the shelter’s 100 dogs and cats were given up by their owners. He said that many of them, including Leila, were given up because they were being kicked out of their homes or had trouble paying rent.
The Canine Journal says that taking care of a dog in Florida right now costs $1,686 per year.
“I mean, if your rent goes from $1,000 to $2,500 a month, you have to ask yourself, What comes first? Rent, power, or taking care of your pet?” Camilio said.
It’s not just a problem for the Treasure Coast. Jan Steele, who is in charge of Animal Care and Control (ACC) in Palm Beach County, said that 491 dogs were given up by their owners in 2021. This number went up to 584 in 2022, which is almost 50 per month.
“Unfortunately, the number of dogs given up by their owners keeps going up. In January, 45 dogs were given up by their owners,” said Steele.
Steele also said that owner surrenders are now done by appointment because there are too many people.
Steele said, “We have 14 people on a list to wait for the month of February.” When people have to give up their pets, they cry.
Camilio felt the same way, but she said that turning away dogs like Leila isn’t a problem, even though it hurts the charity.
“This is exactly why we’re here. To take care of every animal that comes through our door,” Camilio said.
If you have a pet and are having trouble making ends meet, there are many ways to get help.