‘Bursting at the seams’, pet shelters ask for help

Faced with an unusually large pet population, Bartholomew County’s two major animal shelters are urging residents to consider alternatives to abandoning their pets in their facilities.

“We’re packed,” said Columbus Animal Care Services (ACS) general manager Nicohl Birdwell Goodin. “This is by far the most comprehensive of our refuge since I arrived here nine years ago.”

Birdwell Goodin and Bartholomew County Humane Society shelter director Kirsten VantWoud say their organizations can help make caring for a dog or cat more affordable.

“Kirsten and I are both trying to get the message across that if food is the issue for people who abandon their pets, abandoning them isn’t necessary,” Birdwell-Goodin said. “We both have pet pantry options.”

Population growth in shelters is seasonal. It’s the time of year when animal shelters across the country reach their peak population as some pets flee a home after being terrified by exploding fireworks during the holiday holiday. of independence.

But several other factors are at play that are pushing population numbers above normal levels for early July.

For example, several low-cost spaying and sterilization clinics suspended or reduced operations in 2020 and part of 2021 due to pre-vaccination risk of COVID-19. As a result, there has been a significant increase in the domestic animal population.

Additionally, several Bartholomew County residents have obtained pets while working online from home during the pandemic. But after being called back to their traditional place of work, some pet owners found they no longer had time to properly care for their pets, Birdwell-Goodin said.

As one might expect, inflation has become a growing factor, resulting in more homeless or protected animals, VantWoud said. When she was named shelter manager for the Humane Society in 2020, VantWoud said she was amazed at how quickly lost animals are reunited with their owners. In fact, the majority of pets captured and brought to the shelter were returned to their owners that year. The city requires animals to be microchipped, so if an animal runs away frequently, ACS staff are able to reunite it with its owners, sometimes without even having to bring the animal to the shelter on Arnold St., said Birdwell-Goodin.

But last spring it emerged that a number of people were facing enough financial hardship that when the dog or cat went missing the owner made no effort to get the animal back, said VanWoud.

“It was either that or the animal was intentionally thrown away,” she added.

A startling fact is that it’s not unusual for a person to walk into a recently vacated apartment or house to find an abandoned animal that hasn’t been allowed to move into the new residence, Birdwell-Goodin said. .

While many families go on vacation at this time of year, their sitter is often unfamiliar with the animal’s behavior and will accidentally let the dog or cat get away, said the manager of the ACS.

The number of people taking their pets to a remote location to dump them in the wild has decreased, she said, but it still happens occasionally, she added.

Much like loud explosions of fireworks, a full animal shelter can stress felines and dogs, which is especially serious when families and individuals are considering adopting them, VantWoud said.

Cats often don’t want to interact with humans while dogs become reactive and bark excessively.

“It complicates everything,” VantWoud said. “It would be nice to put some of these kittens in foster care as it socializes them well and the foster family helps with physical care. Unfortunately, the Bartholomew County Humane Society is already using all of its available foster homes for felines, she said.

Options may include finding a friend, relative or neighbor who loves the dog or cat and who would consider caring for the animal temporarily or permanently.

Both animal sanctuaries expect their pet population to remain high until numbers begin to gradually decline in October and remain manageable through spring.

About Chuck Keeton

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