Santa Rosa County Animal Services is making an urgent plea to the community to help clear the shelter by adopting or fostering a dog.
“We are running out of time,” the shelter said in a Facebook posted Tuesday. “Our shelter can’t keep up with the number of pets in our care.”
Shelter Director Dora Thomason says the shelter is at capacity with all dog kennels full. The shelter also needs extra space as the building undergoes repairs from Hurricane Sally.
“We are not a huge shelter. We have 70 kennels — all full,” said Thomason. “That may not sound like a lot of animals, but you never want your shelter at capacity.”
Thomason explained that being at capacity puts a strain on staff and limits the amount or personal care each animal can receive. The shelter also has to stay prepared for emergency intakes.
“We’re looking at the best quality of life for the dogs,” she said. “Not every animal does well in a shelter — it’s busy and noisy. We’re meant to be the bridge to their forever home. They’re not meant to stay on the bridge.”
To prevent any cost barriers for future adopting families, the shelter is waiving adoption fees from April 1 to April 17 which includes spay and neuter, rabies vaccination and microchip. For anyone who can’t make the commitment of adopting, the shelter is looking for more fosters and rescue groups to help.
This time of year, it’s typical for shelters to be inundated with kittens. However, since Santa Rosa County adopted a Community Cat program in 2019, they’ve seen a decrease in stray or surrendered cats. The Community Cat program, or TNR (Trap Neuter Release), allows for outdoor cats to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and returned to their original habitat.
“It’s helped sustain the number of cats impounded,” said Thomason. “It’s beneficial to the cats, the community and the shelter.”
Late last year, shelters across the state reported a spike in surrenders and they attributed it to Gov. Ron DeSantis letting the state’s eviction ban expire. Nationwide, the CDC has extended the eviction moratorium through June. But Thomason said she believes COVID still has “some influence” on the area and could be on the reasons for the shelter being at capacity.
“People are still feeling the financial effects,” she said. “That’s why animal control works on pet retention.”
Whether it’s pet food, help with medical services or training, Thomason said there are local resources to help owners keep their pets with organizations such as 400 Paws, A Hope and the Pensacola Humane Society. Which is why the shelter has stopped taking owner surrenders.
“We had to figure out a plan to help the animals that need it most,” she said. “Animals with a home are not in jeopardy so we refer them to other organizations.”
While the shelter has had changes to its operations in recent years, the need for help hasn’t wavered. Thomason said the plea for help ensures “all the animals have a chance.”
“We want to see these dogs flourish and go to their forever home,” she said.
For more information on Santa Rosa County Animals Services, and to see adoptable dogs, visit santarosa.fl.gov/776/Adoptable-Dogs