Crowding crisis prompts change in dog housing procedure
The problem came to a head in the spring at the Chautauqua County Humane Society. Too many dogs, some of which were strays that were being held, and not enough space had the Strunk Road facility in crisis.
To ease its burden then, the Humane Society temporarily waived its adoption fee for dogs.
To limit overcrowding in the future, the Humane Society is updating its contracts with 29 municipalities mostly in Chautauqua County that deal with holding stray dogs and taking them in for adoption.
Kellie Roberts, Humane Society executive director, said the organization began looking into the contracts that had been in place with towns and villages since the mid-2000s. The overcrowding crisis in the spring put into motion efforts to alter the method in which dogs are brought to the Humane Society to be held or transferred for adoption.
“The dogs that were coming in, you know we might have dogs come in that were on a bite hold,” Roberts told The Post-Journal. “We might have dogs running at large; we might have a presumed dangerous dog; we might have that the owner had to go to the hospital and the (dog control officer) brought the dog here. We were really turning into a repository for every dog in the majority of the county that somebody needed a place for it to go.”
From 2019 to 2021, the Humane Society took in 165 dogs a year on average from contracted municipalities. The intake also includes animals brought to the facility from law enforcement.
This spring, Roberts said the Humane Society began calling the clerks and dog control officers of municipalities that it contracts with to inform them that there was no space for additional dogs.
Under the previous contract, stray dogs or dogs received by police that needed to be held temporarily were brought to the Humane Society. The organization would hold onto the animal until it was returned to its owner or transferred for adoption.
“There was a Monday, must have been late May or early June, that we started calling around to the town clerks and the (dog control officers) and let them know we were full. ‘We’re sorry, we’re not making this choice. There’s nothing else that we can do,'” she said. “And most of them were very understanding about it and things like that, but that was really where the whole change started.”
SPACE AT A PREMIUM
Several years ago, and in need of too many repairs, the Humane Society sold its holding center located on Fluvanna Avenue in Jamestown. Roberts said the facility, which could hold up to 30 dogs, was used for strays as well as overflow from the Humane Society.
Without the holding center, the organization handled all animals at its Strunk Road location.
“One thing that we do know across the country is that, overall, we have more animals now, at least as many animals now looking to come into the shelters but our adoptions are not at the rate that they were pre-pandemic,” Roberts said. “So while we have more animals looking to come in, or the same number of animals looking to come in, they’re just not leaving as quickly.”
And then the spring arrived.
“We just started getting a lot of dogs in from our (dog control officers) and police that we contract with,” Roberts said.
The Humane Society also has been keeping an eye on the Companion Animal Care Standards Act for Shelters and Rescues — a bill that was passed in the state Assembly and Senate this May but not yet signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
In his legislative justification, Joseph Addabbo Jr. said the goal of the bill is to heighten the standards of care for companion animals at all shelters and rescues across New York while eliminating ineffective and unenforceable laws.
Among it highlights, the bill calls for ongoing training for shelter personnel; requires recordkeeping of all animals including health and behavior; bans “dangerous and reckless” methods of animal transport; and requires all entities to have a clear, written management structure that defines staff authority, reporting structure and responsibilities.
Roberts said the bill limits the use of crates for animals inside a shelter longer than 30 minutes, something the Humane Society had done when space was limited. “That is the big factor in terms of housing. We can’t use crates anymore,” she said.
Most municipalities were offered a new secondary contract with the Humane Society. Under the contract, municipalities will have to find alternative locations or organizations to hold dogs.
The Humane Society will consider dogs being surrendered after conducting an evaluation. There also will be fees now associated with accepting a dog to be put up for adoption.
“Most towns were offered the secondary contract,” Roberts said. “They will have to do their own holding or will have to contract with another facility to do that. Once the stray hold is up or they can’t find the owner, they can contact us to let us know they have a dog and feel like it’s adoptable.”
A handful of municipalities were offered a primary contract, in which the Humane Society will serve as the primary shelter when there is space available. There is a $40 monthly fee per dog associated with municipalities that have a primary contract.
The town of Ellicott, in which the Humane Society is located, was one of the municipalities offered a primary contract. Members of the town board approved the agreement at a recent meeting.
“There’s always been a solid relationship,” Janet Bowman, Ellicott town supervisor, said of the partnership between the Humane Society and the town.