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Puppies available for adoption at the Helen Woodward Animal Center. The center has cut adoption fees in half throughout March. Photo courtesy of the Helen Woodward Animal Center.
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Helen Woodward Animal Center cuts adoption fees in half

RANCHO SANTA FE — Throughout March, the Helen Woodward Animal Center is taking steps to increase adoptions by cutting adoption fees in half and providing food, litter, pet supplies and gas cards to help ease the cost of bringing new, furry family members into homes.

The move is an effort to curb record low pet adoptions from coast-to-coast, which according to the shelter is causing a major crisis in the world of animal welfare and a jump in the number of orphan dogs and cats euthanized in other parts of the country.

For the last several decades, Helen Woodward Animal Center has placed its focus on transporting in orphan pets from outside of San Diego County. Local governances have made the region a safer place for orphan pets by enacting no-kill ordinances and spay and neuter laws.

In other parts of the country, however, the number of healthy pets who are euthanized is much higher. Euthanasia was up by 64% in 2023 as the result of nearly 1 million fewer pet adoptions than the previous year, as reported by the Shelter Animals Count (SAC).

In San Diego, while no-kill laws keep orphan pets alive, a severe drop off in adoptions means shelter dogs and cats spend weeks, months and even years in kennels, gradually becoming harder to place.

According to the Helen Woodward Animal Center, as animals fill up kennels, orphan pets in other parts of the country are unable to make the transport out west to local no-kill shelters.

“The situation is very serious,” said Helen Woodward Animal Center Pet Acquisition Manager LaBeth Thompson.  “We are having to turn down partners we have worked with for years and years. They are in tears and frankly, we are too. We simply can’t bring in more animals if we don’t have the space for them and the number of potential adopters coming through the doors is the lowest we’ve seen in years. We’re hearing the same thing from shelters across the country.”

Kittens available for adoption at the Helen Woodward Animal Center. The center has cut adoption fees in half throughout March. Photo courtesy of the Helen Woodward Animal Center.

Some studies have indicated that the drop in adoption numbers is a result of inflation and an uneasy political climate. When families feel unsure about what’s to come, they are less likely to spend money on non-essentials.

“It’s extremely important to me that the message is not that we are discounting these precious lives,” said Helen Woodward Animal Center President and CEO Mike Arms. “We will still have the same rigorous screening and interview process to ensure that these pets are being placed with caring pet-owners. The center’s adoption fees have always been a way to remind families that pets are a responsibility and an investment. However, the extreme loss of lives across the country is too unbearable to ignore. If we can help families dealing with higher costs and tighter budgets, we want to want to do our part in making it more affordable to bring dogs and cats into loving homes. That movement will open up kennel space and allow us to pull more orphan pets from high-kill locations, saving more lives.”

Helen Woodward Animal Center encourages anyone looking to bring a pet into their home to consider rescue first and support local animal shelters.

In addition to reduced adoption fees, the center will be open seven days a week throughout March. Blue Buffalo will provide a 4-pound bag of puppy food, Naturally Fresh will provide a bag of cat litter, Kahoots Pet and Feed Store will provide a $10 gift card and the first 100 adopters will receive a $25 gas card.

For those who can’t adopt, the center encourages families to consider fostering.

For more information, contact Helen Woodward Animal Center Adoptions Department at 858-756-4117 ext. 313, visit or stop by at 6461 El Apajo Road in Rancho Santa Fe.

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