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CHARLOTTE, NC – The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says more than 6 million dogs and cats are placed in shelters each year, and hundreds of thousands of them don’t make it out alive.
Many shelters across the country are reporting overcrowded kennels and asking for the public’s help. Like other industries, a major problem for shelters is staffing shortages. When shelters don’t have the help they need, it can be bad news for hopeful pets.
“You’re not providing the service you used to be. And in our terms, that means getting animals out of the shelter alive,” said Julie Castle, the CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, a euthanasia record-keeping organization in the U.S.
With fewer staff, Castle says many shelters are open fewer hours.
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“So that leaves fewer chances for the animals to get out alive. We see shelters doing fever events,” she said.
It’s been a particularly rough summer at the city-run shelter in Charlotte, North Carolina. Melissa Knicely has worked at the Charlotte shelter for 15 years and says this is the worst she has seen.
“During the month of June, if you calculate it all, it would probably be 3-4 dogs a day,” Knicly said.
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Euthanasia is 40% higher than last summer at the shelter in Charlotte.
“I sometimes feel like I’m howling wolf because we’ve been so full for so long and we’re screaming it out and crying it out,” Knicely said.
When shelters don’t have enough staff, it means less resources go to dogs with medical or behavioral problems.
“We had to make some decisions that some would call ‘for space,’ but it wasn’t just space, we also had to consider the behavior,” explains Knicely.
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Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) focuses primarily on improving conditions in five states: California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Alabama. Those states make up 31% of the U.S. population, but according to BFAS, they are responsible for half of all shelter homicides.
“Maybe they have a lot of different shelters that don’t have access to the resources or the community population to help them,” Castle said.
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Even if you can’t adopt a pet. Many shelters say the best way to help is to volunteer temporarily or care for a pet.