Friday, November 16, 2018 at 2:00 am (Updated: November 16, 2:00 am)
The shelter is set up with only 31 runs to hold dogs, and shelter Director Alan Williams said he tries not to double up the runs to keep the animals from passing along diseases. A distemper outbreak shut down the shelter in May 2017.
“We can’t work but so fast, and animal control is outrunning us,” Williams said. “It’s worse now than it’s been all year. We’ll probably wind up with close to 200 dogs just this month, double what it usually is.”
Legally, the shelter must hold dogs for at least five days to give owners time to pick them up, but Williams said he is struggling to keep up with that. After those five days, the dogs are put up for adoption or euthanized.
There were two days recently when the shelter took in 20 dogs each day, putting it well over the 31-run limit.
Over the summer, Williams said the shelter had to euthanize 21 dogs in three months. That number has increased this fall. Twenty-five have been euthanized just since Oct. 1 because of the massive intake.
“We get to where we just don’t have anywhere to put them,” Williams said Thursday. “We’ve got two portables out there that are open now, but those will probably be filled before the end of the day today.”
If dogs are owner-surrendered, they can be adopted out, sent to a rescue group or euthanized the same day they are brought in.
“It’s not really fair to them,” Williams said of the owner-surrendered dogs. “We had one come in on a Thursday, and I had to put him down on that Friday because we didn’t have nowhere to put him. I don’t want to have to put a dog down just because we don’t have the space to keep them here.
“This is a tough job,” he said. “People say sometimes that we’re a high-kill shelter. We’re not. We can’t handle all of these dogs coming in at one time right now, but before this past month a lot of the ones that were euthanized couldn’t have been adopted out anyways. They were just mean, injured or sick, and we just couldn’t do anything with them.”
Williams said he tries to look at the shelter’s positive results, like the number of dogs it adopts out.
That number has increased slightly since the shelter has started posting its animals on Facebook. Shelter Assistant Manager Carissa Valenti manages the Facebook posts and works with rescues around Lancaster that take in some of the dogs, including the Lancaster SPCA and Lancaster Animal Shelter Supporters (LASS).
Williams and Valenti are the only two staff members at the shelter, but they are trying to fill a new part-time position.
Williams said Valenti does everything she can to save every dog, but she’s learned in her three years there that not every animal can be saved.
Williams has worked at the shelter on and off for 10 years, with eight years prior experience at animal control. He said he remembers when the shelter used the gas chamber years ago and was euthanizing 80 to 90 percent more dogs than it does now.
“We have bad days, and I’m sure everybody does, but at the end of the day it’s better now than it ever has been,” he said. “It’s cleaner than it ever has been. We’re getting more dogs out than we’ve ever been, and our euthanizing rate is lower than it’s ever been.”
Williams said if the numbers are this high now, he worries what it will be after Christmas. A lot of people receive dogs as Christmas gifts, but then the animals end up in a shelter. And most of the rescues are full, so dogs can’t be moved.
The county is preparing to build a new $2.8 million animal shelter on Pageland Highway. Until then, Williams said, he will make do with what he has. The new shelter is expected to be complete by November 2019.
Designed by McMillan-Pazden-Smith Architecture, the shelter will include a 4,800-square-foot building for animal intake and holding, a medical area for treatment, offices, space for pet adoptions, and laundry and food-storage areas. It also has two rooms for cats and 46 runs for dogs.
Williams said those 15 extra dog runs will make all the difference in the world.
“We’re going to have to do our job as much then as we are now to find places for the dogs,” he said. “And Carissa does an amazing job at trying to get these dogs out of here.
“We get a bad rep sometimes, but if you took our numbers by the year we’re still in the 10 percent range,” he said of the shelter’s euthanizing rate. “We work hard to try to get these dogs out of here. That’s why we’re here. We’re improving every day.”
County council has been planning for the new shelter for more than a year. Council member Larry Honeycutt said he can’t wait until the new facility is ready.
“I’m just hoping when we get the new shelter in place we’ll continue to have all of these people who come in and take these animals,” he said. “And I know they will. The LSPCA is very good and LASS does a wonderful job at finding homes for them. But 100 dogs in two weeks is just too many.”
Honeycutt said the new shelter isn’t quite as big as some would like, but even a little more space should help with these numbers.
The new shelter will be built so the county can add on later if needed, Honeycutt said, and the current shelter will be fixed and used in case of sickness or infection.
“Me, among many others, will be glad to see it built,” he said.
The county is also working to get a trailer big enough to hold 20 dogs so that the animal shelter can transport animals for medical treatment and to adoption events.
The shelter posted to Facebook Thursday afternoon, asking for help from rescues and the public in moving the large number of dogs, saying “There is absolutely no way we can move dogs as fast as they are coming in.”
All animals adopted out of the shelter are spayed and neutered and up-to-date on all shots. Dog adoption fees are $100, and cats are $80.
For more information on the animals that are available, visit the shelter’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LCAnimalShelter/, or call (803) 286-8103.
Follow Kayla Vaughn on Twitter @kaybvaughn or contact her at (803) 416-8416.
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