Pet surrenders down by nearly half at Osceola County shelter

A new pet assistance program is helping Osceola County leaders keep more animals out of their shelter.

The L.E.A.S.H. program, which stands for "Let Every Animal Stay at Home," offers assistance to pet owners who come to the Osceola Shelter planning to surrender their pet. According to shelter leaders, about half of the attempted surrenders they see are owners who would rather keep their animals, but are facing tough circumstances.

"They feel like they don't have any options,” said shelter director Kim Staton. “They come in thinking, 'I can't care for this pet because I can't buy food,' or, 'I can't care for this pet because I haven't been able to keep up on the vaccines."

Through the L.E.A.S.H. program the shelter can offer those pet owners temporary help with things like food, vet care, training, and other barriers to keeping their pet.

The program was launched in the county nearly 2 years ago, and it’s showing serious success.

According to Staton, the shelter’s surrender intakes are down by about 40% since the program started. Right now, as shelters across the area are filling to capacity fast, Staton said their St. Cloud shelter is only about half to 2/3 full.

"We've had great support from the community, we've had great support from grant funding partners, and other shelters," said Staton.

Staton said the program is also leading them to other initiatives to keep their pet population happier and better adjusted as they search for homes.