Winters are often busy for animal shelters. Across the country, shelters consider December through January as some of the busiest months.

Becca Daly, communications director for the Susquehanna Animal Shelter in Cooperstown, and Erin Insinga, shelter manager for Delaware Valley Humane Society, confirmed an uptick in dog surrenders in the month of December. They agreed it can't be attributed to any one thing.

“People surrender animals for fighting with other dogs, a death in the family, moving or financial reasons,” Daly said. “Lots of people are quick to get a puppy and don't really understand what goes into giving them the activity level they need.”

One factor that gets a lot of attention is the practice of giving pets as gifts during the holidays.

“I'm really hoping that we don't see that this year, but statistically speaking, it does happen,” Insinga said. “We encourage people to put some thought into it before they try and gift an animal.” Insinga said Easter is another time where animals are given as pets and eventually end up in shelters.

To avoid this, shelters often have policies against on-the-spot adoptions and require references.

“We were open on Christmas Eve and people came in looking for kittens that night, but our policy is strict.” Insinga said.

SAS and Delaware Valley are no-kill shelters, which means they are typically at full capacity for both cats and dogs. SAS, Daly said, has a wait list for cats that averages at 80. Delaware Valley just found new homes for two dogs who had both been at the shelter for more than five years.

The winter also presents the challenge of exposure for animals. Daly and Insinga said people frequently call concerned about animals who don't have shelter.

“Last night and today we had numerous phone calls from people worried about dogs left outside,” Insinga said. In those situations, she recommends calling the local sheriff's department or reaching out to the county's dog control officers.

Both shelters said they get a lot of calls from people about stray cats, and sometimes people just drop them off. Insinga said they offer food and bedding to people who wish to help, but beyond that shelters can't always take in the cats because they are at capacity.

This year SAS cared for 529 animals and 416 were adopted. The intake is up from last year from 386 animals sheltered and 322 adopted.

“The only we can take more animals in is if we have more adoptions,” Daly said. “We always wish we can do more, but it's getting better.”

Whitney Bashaw, staff writer, can be reached at (607) 441-7218 or wbashaw@thedailystar.com

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Reporter covering agriculture and k-12 education in Central New York state.