The German Animal Welfare Association and the federal government’s animal protection officer, Ariane Désirée Kari, warn of the disastrous situation in German animal shelters. “The situation of animal shelters in Germany is dramatic and their acute overload is one of the most urgent animal protection problems,” said Kari to the German Press Agency.

According to the German Animal Welfare Association, there is an admission freeze in around two thirds of animal shelters because the facilities are not only severely underfunded, but also overcrowded. “In many places, animal shelter operators and employees are constantly working at or above their limits,” said the Federal Commissioner.

Impulse purchase: In the animal shelter because of excessive demands

Spontaneous purchases of animals in particular are a big problem. “Obviously too many people buy dogs spontaneously without thinking about where the animal will stay on holiday, for example, or who will pay the veterinary costs,” emphasized the 37-year-old. If these questions become acute, the animals would all too often end up in the animal shelter because they were overwhelmed. A mandatory certificate of expertise could ensure “that potential owners have to think about such questions before purchasing a dog.”

Looking to the future, she warned: “The situation will not improve on its own.” Therefore, in addition to quick financial relief, animal shelters need binding regulations on the subject of online pet trading. A requirement to castrate free-roaming cats and a comprehensive labeling and registration requirement for dogs and cats could also help.

Positive list for animal species

According to the Animal Welfare Association, which as an umbrella organization represents 550 animal shelters, among others, another idea is a positive list for pet ownership, which lists animal species that can be safely kept in private hands. In addition, everyone can do something to relieve the burden on homes “by ensuring that everyone who is interested in an animal is fully informed in advance and is aware of their responsibility.”

“Before an animal moves in, you should make sure that the animal can stay forever,” said Lea Schmitz, spokeswoman for the Animal Welfare Association, to the German Press Agency. In addition, you shouldn’t “shop” for animals on the Internet, but rather look around at the animal shelter. A donation or membership in the animal shelter also helps.

Pandemic exacerbates problem

The Animal Welfare Association sees the corona pandemic as the main cause of the current escalation in developments, during which many people bought pets. “Many were purchased without thinking and spontaneously, mostly over the Internet, in pet stores, hardware stores or from breeders. When the pandemic leveled off or ended, the first of these animals ended up in the animal shelter,” explained the Animal Welfare Association spokeswoman. “Since the summer of 2023, the flood of donations has seemed particularly extreme and has repeatedly led to admission stops nationwide.”

Corona hasn’t played a major role for a long time – the problem still remains: “The number of inquiries from people who want to get rid of their animals is not letting up. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that the situation will ease in the coming months. On the contrary,” said Schmitz.

Municipalities and authorities can no longer bear the costs

The long-term critical financial situation of the homes has been further exacerbated by inflation, increased energy prices, increased fees for veterinary treatment and the increased minimum wage for staff, said Schmitz. The municipalities and authorities would not be able to cover the costs of the tasks that animal shelters take on for them. There is therefore an investment backlog of 160 million euros for urgently needed hospital wards, energy-saving renovation and modernization – and that only for animal shelters that are affiliated with the Animal Welfare Association.

But it’s not just the municipalities that are the problem: “In view of the state goal of animal protection in the German Basic Law, all federal levels – federal, state, municipal and district – must face their responsibility instead of passing it on to each other,” demands the Animal Protection Association. In its coalition agreement, the federal government promised a consumption foundation for animal shelters, which is a long time coming.