The social isolation and work-from-home demands encountered at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic provided the right environment for many families to add a four-legged friend to their home. Now, as many Americans return to in-person work and demand for pet adoption dwindles, area animal shelters are reaching capacity and asking for help from the community.
Lorri Hare, director of the Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society, said her facility is experiencing an unsustainable level of pet abandonments and admissions.
“A lot of families are feeling financial strain or having to move to another area and unfortunately can’t afford to keep pets,” Hare said. “The other thing that I started to wonder about is that during COVID there were a lot of vet offices and neutering clinics across the state that were limiting their surgeries and foot traffic. .”
Hare said the Humane Society sees 30 or more admissions a day, compared to an average of six to eight adoptions a day. She said the key to ending the crisis was not necessarily to increase the number of adoptions, but to slow the number of admissions.
“We are focusing more on how we can keep the animals out of the shelter to begin with. Do people need help with pet food? Veterinary care? Sterilization / sterilization at a low price? This is the key. I always say that we can’t get out of the pet overpopulation problem, no matter how well any facility works. The only answer is sterilization/sterilization.
The facility offers a low-cost neutering program to help families with the cost of veterinary care. Unmodified animals are a major cause of animal overpopulation. According to advocacy group SNAP, up to 4,948 kittens can be born from an unspayed female cat and her offspring in seven years. Hare said reducing overcrowding would reduce the number of strays and ease the capacity crisis facing shelters across the country.
Until the broader overcrowding issues can be resolved, Hare said his organization and similar facilities are working to create temporary space to house more animals. For the Humane Society, that means outdoor kennels. The kennels are reinforced with tarps and straw is spread to protect against winter weather, but the spaces are difficult to clean and maintain. Hare said she relies on rescue organizations outside of Kentucky to help ease the pressure on her facility to continue creating space for more animals.
“We transported 106 animals to Pennsylvania and New York last Friday. We start again this Friday. If it weren’t for this, our outdoor kennels at this point would be completely full,” Hare said.
Capacity constraints and high admissions are a trend across the region, according to Ashley Thompson, director of the Daviess County Animal Shelter. She said her facility converts more space to accommodate the animals. However, unlike the non-kill Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society, the Daviess County Animal Shelter euthanizes some dogs to allow for greater capacity.
“We try to make as much room as possible, but at some point you can’t make room anymore,” Thompson said. “So there are some who will be euthanized and usually those who are euthanized are those who have behavioral issues. For some reason they’ve been here a long time or they’re probably not going to be adopted or going to rescue because of issues. of behavior.
Thompson and Hare both agree that the recent wave of inflows was not a problem at the start of the pandemic. Thompson said there were several times in 2020 that her facility only had one cat and one dog available for adoption. Now, as the shelter prepares to drop off additional dogs in the coming days, she hopes volunteers will be the answer to overdue adoptions.
“We need a lot of volunteers to come at the moment because we are so overcrowded with dogs. Take pictures of the dogs, walk them, get to know their personalities, give them a break from the kennel. Help us take photos so we can post them so people can see more candid and fun photos of the dogs and get to know their personalities,” Thompson said.
Both the Owensboro and Bowling Green shelters encourage community members to consider adopting a pet. Adoptable pets at Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society can be found here and information about pets available at Daviess County Animal Shelter Adoptable Pets is here.