More than a hundred owners surrendered dogs to the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter last month, straining resources and prompting fears that some animals may need to be euthanized if the current trend continues.
Last month, 122 owners surrendered their dogs to the shelter — an increase of nearly 40 percent over the same month last year, prompting officials to seek help from the community and explore incentives for adoption.
“We are over capacity,” Schneider said, noting that including strays and surrenders, the facility saw a total of 359 new dogs come in for the month.
“We’re about full with cats, and in dogs we are over capacity," she said. "The other problem right now is the adoption rate has dropped off compared to what they normally are.”
Schneider said some of the most common reasons people give their pets up is because they don’t fit with their lifestyle, can’t afford the pet, or the owners are divorcing or moving.
The shelter maintains an open admission status, which means it has an obligation to accept all strays and surrendered pets. The shelter only euthanizes pets when necessary to accommodate to the shelter’s population, and considers it a last resort, said Community Program Coordinator Misty Valenta.
In addition to a high volume of older, bigger dogs, the shelter has seen a recent uptick in cat intake as well.
“This year we’ve taken in 700 more cats than we did last year,” Schneider said. “That’s a huge increase. The year before, we took in 300 more than that. Until communities embrace trap, neuter and return policies instead of dumping them in the shelter, we’re going to see a cat population explosion. They’re either ignoring them or bringing them for us to deal with.”
By the end of November, there were 93 dogs and 88 cats in kennels with 96 dogs and 93 cats in foster care. To help reduce overcrowding, the shelter is offering name-your-own-price adoptions for older dogs this month.
“This month is adoption by donation for adult dogs and kittens over 4 months,” Schneider said. They get to name their own price for a dollar on up. Otherwise, it’s $50 for kittens and $75 for puppies. The main crunch is for big dogs. People will adopt puppies and kittens all day long.”
Adoptions include includes spay and neutering, vaccinations, heartworm or Feline Leukemia tests, a microchip and a free wellness exam with a participating veterinarian.
Fostering is also a way to help out the shelter, if one is unable to take on a pet full-time. The shelter is offering holiday fostering as well, where foster owners are allowed to keep the pets and extended amount of time through the new year.
“Fostering is our probably our No. 1 life-saving thing the community does for us,” Schneider said. “It’s like a free trial for a dog or cat if you want to adopt it. We do help they fall in love when fostering.”
The WilCo animal shelter is located at 1855 SE Innerloop in Georgetown, and is open from noon to 6 p.m. For more information and a list of available pets for adoption, visit pets.wilco.org.