Overcrowding prompts change in dog housing procedure | News, Sports, Jobs
The problem came to a head in the spring at the Chautauqua County Humane Society. Too many dogs, some of them strays, and not enough space put the Strunk Road facility in crisis.
To ease its burden, the Humane Society temporarily waived its dog adoption fees.
To limit overcrowding in the future, The Humane Society is updating its contracts with 29 municipalities, primarily in Chautauqua County, that address stray dog keeping and adoption.
Kellie Roberts, executive director of the Humane Society, said the organization had begun reviewing contracts in place with cities and towns since the mid-2000s. The overcrowding crisis in the spring set in motion efforts to change the method by which dogs are brought to the Humane Society for detention or transferred for adoption.
“The dogs that were coming in, you know we might have dogs that were waiting to be bitten,” Roberts told the Post-Journal. “We could have dogs running free; we might have a presumed dangerous dog; we might have the owner had to go to the hospital and (the dog control officer) brought the dog here. We were really becoming a repository for every dog in the majority of the county that someone needed a place to go.
From 2019 to 2021, the Humane Society welcomed an average of 165 dogs per year from approved municipalities. Admission also includes animals brought to the facility by law enforcement.
This spring, Roberts said the Humane Society began calling clerks and dog control officers at municipalities it contracts with to let them know there was no room for additional dogs.
Under the previous contract, stray dogs or dogs received by the police that were to be temporarily detained were brought to the Humane Society. The organization would keep the animal until it was returned to its owner or transferred for adoption.
“There was a Monday, it must have been late May or early June, that we started calling the town clerks and the (dog control officers) and let them know we were full. “We’re sorry, we don’t make that choice. We can’t do anything else.” she says. “And most of them were very understanding about that and things like that, but that’s really where all the change started.”
SPACE AT A PREMIUM
Several years ago, and in dire need of repairs, the Humane Society sold its detention center on Fluvanna Avenue in Jamestown. Roberts said the facility, which could hold up to 30 dogs, was used for strays as well as Humane Society overflows.
Without the detention centre, the organization cared for all the animals at its Strunk Road location.
“One thing we know across the country is that overall we have more animals now, at least as many animals now looking to enter shelters, but our adoptions are not at the rate where they were before the pandemic”, said Roberts. “So although we have more animals looking to get in, or the same number of animals looking to get in, they just don’t leave as quickly.”
And then spring came.
“We have just started getting a lot of dogs from our (dog control officers) and the police that we engage with,” said Roberts.
The Humane Society has also been keeping tabs on the Companion Animal Care Standards for Shelters and Rescues Act — a bill that passed the Assembly and state Senate in May but will has yet to be signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul.
In his legislative rationale, Joseph Addabbo Jr. said the purpose of the bill is to strengthen standards of care for pets in all New York shelters and rescues while eliminating ineffective and unenforceable laws.
Among its highlights, the bill provides for ongoing training for shelter staff; requires the keeping of records of all animals, including health and behavior; bans “dangerous and reckless” animal transport methods; and requires all entities to have a clear, written management structure that defines staff authorities, reporting lines and responsibilities.
Roberts said the bill limits the use of animal crates inside a shelter for more than 30 minutes, which the Humane Society did when space was limited. “That’s the big factor in terms of housing. We can no longer use crates,” she says.
Most municipalities have been offered a new secondary contract with the Humane Society. As part of the contract, the municipalities will have to find other places or organizations to house the dogs.
The Humane Society will consider releasing the dogs after conducting an assessment. There will also be fees now associated with accepting a dog for adoption.
“Most cities were offered the secondary contract,” said Roberts. “They will have to do their own mining or will have to contract with another facility to do so. Once the wandering hold is lifted or they cannot find the owner, they can contact us to let us know they have a dog and they feel it is adoptable.
A handful of municipalities have been offered a main contract, in which the Humane Society will serve as the main shelter when space is available. There is a monthly fee of $40 per dog associated with municipalities that have a master contract.
The town of Ellicott, in which the Humane Society is located, was one of the municipalities that was offered a prime contract. City council members approved the deal at a recent meeting.
“There has always been a solid relationship” Janet Bowman, Town Supervisor of Ellicott, spoke about the partnership between the Humane Society and the town.