Nevada animal shelters see uptick in people giving up their pets

Photo via Nevada SPCA Life-Saving Shelter's Facebook

By Aleza Freeman

August 30, 2023

Our pets do so much for us and ask so little in return, yet these furry friends are often the first to go when families face a financial burden.

This summer, the Nevada SPCA has seen a significant rise in people across the Las Vegas Valley surrendering or abandoning their pets. NSPCA Executive Director Lori Heeren attributes the crisis to increased economic uncertainty and a surge in evictions stemming from the June expiration of COVID-era renter protections.

“It’s the perfect storm,” said Heeren. She added, “We usually experience an uptick in the summertime with people moving or going on vacation, but this summer has been by far the worst we have seen. There are a lot of people without housing, making it a long summer for us and many other shelters.”

Among the animals crowding the nonprofit, no-kill shelter are dogs, rabbits, and guinea pigs. On the bright side, Heeren noted that cats are being adopted in large numbers, most likely because they are easier to care for than dogs.

Pet surrenders, however, are almost a daily occurrence at the Nevada SPCA. “We believe that for over half the people surrendering, the animal is no longer a priority,” said Heeren. “That’s the reality of our industry.”

It’s not just the Nevada SPCA that has seen an increase in surrendered and abandoned pets. Earlier this month, the Animal Foundation of Las Vegas posted on Facebook that the shelter took in 537 animals (328 dogs) in the first nine days of August alone.

Heeren believes that people who ditch their pets may not be aware there are resources to help. The NSPCA, for instance, has a community support desk where pet owners who are struggling financially can inquire about free pet food and free or low-cost vet assistance.

“Our goal is to provide a safety net to keep the animal in the home,” explained Heeren. “That is the best scenario.”

Here are some of the Nevada SPCA programs that help keep pets and families together.

Educational resources

The Nevada SPCA offers educational resources to pet owners, including a monthly dog training seminar in conjunction with Michael’s Angel Paws.

“Behavior is a big component as to why people might want to give up their pets,” noted Amy Lee, the Nevada SPCA’s communication manager. “With time and patience and training, they might not have to.”

Pet medical support

The Nevada SPCA has a grant-supported program intended to help pet owners who are unable to cover the cost of vet care and medical treatments.

“We offer medical assistance as simple as an exam for animals who have not seen a vet to updating vaccinations to spay and neuter services,” said Heeren. “It depends on the individual situation and what you can afford. In some cases, we cover the entire cost.”

For more information, visit

Pet pantry food assistance

Supported by donations and community partners, the Nevada SPCA Pet Pantry program provides dog food, cat food, and select supplies to those requiring aid to feed their pets. Assistance is available to one person per household and up to three dogs and three cats per household.

Since the food pantry is donation-driven, brands and types of pet food may vary, so don’t be dismayed if you can’t get Fido’s favorite food. However, the pantry does try to keep both canned and dry food in stock for dogs and cats of all ages.

The pantry is open Monday through Friday by appointment only. For more information, visit

Adoption fees waived through Labor Day

To help clear the shelter and put pets in homes, the NSPCA is waiving adoption fees through Labor Day. All animals up for adoption are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped. Rabbits are also vaccinated for RHDV.

Adoptions take place Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Other ways to help

Foster to adopt: The shelter needs fosters to care for healthy puppies and kittens who are too young to be adopted but not yet ready to be spayed or neutered. The Foster to Adopt program allows you to care for the pet you intend on adopting so the shelter has room for the ones that require rehab or medical care.

Consider a senior pet: Health care can sometimes be costly for senior dogs, leading owners to give them up. Thanks to the Grey Muzzle Grant Program, you may be able to receive help to cover treatable and preventative medical care costs for dogs over seven years old.

Adopt don’t shop: The Nevada SPCA implores that you adopt your next pet instead of shopping for one at a pet store. “If everyone adopted,” noted Heeren, “we would not have a homeless pet problem.”

You can see all the dogs, cats, rabbits, and other small animals up for adoption on the Nevada SPCA website.

  • Aleza Freeman

    Aleza Freeman is a Las Vegas native and award-winning journalist with two decades of experience writing and editing lifestyle, travel, entertainment, and human interest stories in Nevada. Her work has appeared in AARP magazine, Haute Living and Nevada Magazine.



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