A dog shelter manages the influx of dogs

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The Athens County Dog Shelter, or ACDS, has seen an influx of dogs in recent weeks, pushing the facility to near capacity and causing it and support organizations to increase the level of care that they provide.

ACDS Warden Ryan Gillette described the number of dogs coming to the shelter as an ebb and flow; some days they may receive no new dogs and other days they may receive 10 or 12. The shelter takes in stray dogs, as well as others abandoned by their owners for various reasons.

Gillette cited financial hardship as a major factor in why some Athens County residents are abandoning their pets. Often, veterinary bills and food costs can make it difficult for pet owners to provide quality care. He also said that some pet owners are asking their tenants to get rid of their pets.

“A lot of times it’s about stray dogs, and often we wonder if people bring the dog in and say they found it somewhere – if it was really theirs and if they wanted to get rid of it or something like that,” Gillette said. “You know, people don’t always tell us the truth. We try to accommodate everyone as best we can.

The shelter has a capacity of 45 kennels, including puppy kennels, quarantine spaces, general kennels, holding spaces and overflow kennels. As of August 19, ACDS had only five places available.

Adoptions also come and go in waves, Gillette said, with some days seeing double-digit adoptions and others seeing very few at all.

To ease pressure on shelter capacity and limit euthanasia, Friends of the Shelter Dogs, or FOSD, helps provide veterinary care and promote the adoption and fostering of shelter dogs. The organization’s volunteers also provide exercise and companionship to the dogs at ACDS.

A shelter dog wags its tail in excitement for a walk on August 30, 2022.

Mindy Oehlers, FOSD’s volunteer coordinator, said the recent influx of shelter dogs has caused FOSD to elevate its work by placing adoptable dogs in homes and recruiting volunteers. Four of the small staff volunteers work to find and approve foster families.

“Once the shelter started to get full, our group really stepped up our advocacy for local foster homes and tried to get additional board members to help with the foster home application process. welcome,” Oehlers said. “It was kind of a practical situation to get people in as foster homes and get the dogs out as quickly as possible.”

She described the Athens community as extremely willing to step up and help care for the new dogs and the increased workload that comes with them. Many people who had contacted FOSD before started to become host families and many applied to volunteer.

“With more dogs, there’s more work, and more walks to do, and more yard play sessions that need to be done, so our community has been really very responsive when it comes to calling on people. volunteers and foster families,” Oehlers said.

In addition to recruiting foster families and placing animals, FOSD occasionally finds shelter for the dogs at other shelters in Ohio and the Midwest region, if needed. The nonprofit organization also hosts adoption and show events to connect potential families with shelter dogs.

The Ohio University campus organization, Bobcats of the Shelter Dogs, or BOSD, works in conjunction with FOSD to provide care and support for dogs at the Athens County shelter. University students help walk, bathe and spend time with the animals, easing some of the care burden from the shelter. The organization also helps raise funds to cover medical and food costs for the dogs, in addition to helping with adoption events.

BOSD fundraising events often feature current shelter dogs that community members can interact with, said BOSD President Maddy Mitchell.

“A lot of the calls that go to the shelter after these events say they want to meet and greet and stuff, so we’re a great way to get the word out for the shelter,” Mitchell said.

FOSD and BOSD have events approaching in September. FOSD’s next adoption event will be at Tractor Supply at 2 p.m. on September 10. BOSD is hosting fundraisers during OU Parent Weekend on September 23 from noon to 4 p.m. and September 24 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Passerelle College.

Gillette has also encouraged residents of Athens to purchase their dog tags, which are an important source of income for the shelter and help it continue to care for its animals.

“Running the shelter, keeping the lights on here, making sure the dogs have everything they need, including medical care, is all about dog tags,” Gilette said. “We encourage everyone to buy their dog tags and help run the shelter and make sure these guys have a fighting chance.”

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