There seem to be several reasons, all unfortunately converging at once, but the effect is there are dozens, even hundreds of dogs, cats, puppies and kittens in need of homes. Right now.
At Richmond County Animal Services one recent afternoon, Crystal Eskola was thrilled a rescue group arrived ready to foster a number of cats, including nursing mother cats with babies.
“Last night at 8 p.m. there were only three empty spots, and there was one mother with seven kittens,” said Eskola, the shelter’s assistant director.
There were 251 animals at the shelter that day. “And more are coming in every day,” she said.
The reason for the overcrowding is unclear.
It’s not necessarily people returning pets they got during the COVID lockdown, Eskola said. Maybe some of the overcrowding is due to veterinary offices being so busy that it’s difficult to get pets spayed and neutered in time. There are always pet surrenders, and a good portion of the cats and dogs that come into the shelter are pets waiting to be reclaimed by owners which needs to be done within five business days, she said.
The other shelters and rescue groups in the area are also bursting at the seams.
Claire Roberson of the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare in Aiken said they have 196 animals now. The number of adoptions this year are down from last year, and they were dealing with fewer animals being brought in last year, so that inflates the situation. About a quarter to a third are surrendered pets, she said.
“We do believe it has a lot to do with the pandemic. Some people lost their jobs and can’t afford to care for their animals. Some are moving for a more pandemic-proof, better paying job. Some honestly want to go on vacation, and (others) are returning to work/school and don’t have time anymore,” Roberson said by email.
“Weirdly, a lot of the returned animals we’ve seen were not animals specifically adopted during the pandemic. The majority had been adopted for some time before the pandemic and were returned this year. We honestly aren’t sure why this is,” Roberson said.
Eskola said the rescue groups are a godsend not only because they take animals to nurture to help them get adopted, but they take responsibility for ones with medical needs and the extra financial costs that the rescue groups won’t be able to recover.
Last week at the shelter on Mack Lane, paws and noses extended through cages at workers and visitors. Cats rubbed against the bars and the dogs jumped excitedly when spoken to, all seemingly hoping for at least some pats.
At the Augusta shelter, adoptive animals have all had their basic shots, worm medicine when needed, and have been spayed or neutered. Adoption costs have also been reduced.
Where to adopt a pet
Augusta Animal Services, Columbia County Animal Services and Friends of the Animal Shelter in Aiken are joining together for a special adoption event Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Augusta Regional Airport, at the south end of the main terminal building. Special rates are in effect and adoptive humans will get free parking.
Augusta Animal Services is located at 4164 Mack Lane, (706) 790-6836. Adoption hours are Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday noon to 5 p.m. See adoptable pets online at https://www.augustaga.gov/602/Adoption-Information.
The CSRA Humane Society is located at 425 Wood St., Augusta, (706) 261-7387. Hours are Monday 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For adoption information, email info@CSRA-hs.com or visit https://csra-hs.com.
Columbia County Animal Services at located at 1940 William Few Parkway, Grovetown, (706) 541-4077. Hours for adoptions are Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Learn more at www.columbiacountyga.gov/community/animals.
Aiken County Animal Shelter is located at 333 Wire Road, Aiken, (803) 642-1537. Hours are Monday through Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. See adoptable pets online at www.fotasaiken.org.
SPCA Albrecht Center is located at 199 Willow Run Road, Aiken, (803) 648-6863. Adoption hours are Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visit www.letlovelive.org for more details.