PARKERSBURG - With warm weather, managers of area animal shelters know they will receive more dogs and cats, but this year has seemed busier than most, according to officials with both shelters.
"It has been a crazy summer," said Steve Herron, manager of the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley's Marietta shelter. "We haven't had a single slow day since the weather warmed up."
Maryann Hollis, executive director of the Humane Society of Parkersburg, agreed with Herron's assessment.
Every cage in the Humane Society of Parkersburg’s 29th Street shelter is filled with cats and dogs of all ages and sizes as this summer has been busy with overcrowding for both local animal shelters and others across the country. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
A cat playfully reaches out from her cage in the 29th Street shelter of the Humane Society of Parkersburg. The cages in both animal shelters in Parkersburg and Marietta have been bursting with homeless dogs, cats, puppies and kittens this summer, officials said. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
"Unfortunately, for us, it's not just this summer that is busy, it's every summer," Hollis said.
The Parkersburg shelter sees more than 4,500 animals annually while the Marietta shelter aids a similar number of dogs and cats.
"July is always the busiest month," Hollis said. "In July 2011 we took in over 500 animals, which is just crazy.
"Sometimes it just pours (animals) and there isn't much rhyme or reason as to why," she added.
As of Aug. 30, the Marietta shelter had 122 cats, 61 dogs and three rabbits available, according to PetFinder.com.
PetFinder.com also had roughly the same number of cats and dogs listed available through the Parkersburg shelter on Friday.
Herron said he believes one of the largest reasons for the increase in the number of animals, of which the shelter at 1210 County House Lane is so full many large dogs are being kept in crates in the yard, is because of the growth in animal cruelty.
"This is the first year I have noticed that cruelty has stepped up," he said. "We charged five cases of animal cruelty and abuse in the last three months, which is huge."
Herron added that he and the other humane officers are doing the best they can to save and help the animals in danger.
"Our job is to protect these animals and we're doing the best we can," he continued.
Other reasons for overcrowding in shelters is, simply, it is summer and warmer weather, which means people let pets out to enjoy the season and other people think they are strays, Hollis said.
"It is a fact of every summer," Herron said. "People let their dogs or cats out and they run and are brought to the shelter as strays."
Hollis said that although those dogs and cats have owners, many are not collected or even sought out.
"About 65 percent of the pets we get are reported strays," she said. "A lot of those pets don't go back home for a variety of reasons."
Hollis also said many of these dogs and cats are pregnant when they are brought in to the shelter.
"Part of the problem is people aren't being responsible pet owners and having their dogs and cats spayed or neutered," she said. "The biggest contributor to shelter overcrowding is puppies and kittens, especially kittens."
Hollis said more than 60 percent of the Parkersburg shelter's intake is cats and kittens and many cats are pregnant.
"Believe me, the last thing we want to do is euthanize animals," Hollis said. "The best thing is to stop the problem before it starts by having your animals sterilized."
Herron agreed the number of domesticated animals without homes is due to constant breeding in the wild.
"Overpopulation of stray animals is not the cats' or dogs' problem," he said. "The overpopulation of stray animals is a people problem we caused it by not taking care of our pets in more ways than one."
Hollis said the Parkersburg shelter's low cost spay and neuter clinic is expected to tackle the overpopulation issue head-on when it opens this fall.
"We always do our best to accommodate as many animals as we can," she said. "But we are looking forward to the solution, which is the clinic."