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Some Kentucky animal shelters reach capacity amid pandemic uncertainties

Friends of Daviess Co. Animal Care and Control/Facebook

The social isolation and work-from-home requirements experienced at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic provided the right environment for many families to add a furry friend to their home. Now, as many Americans return to work in-person and the demand for pet adoptions flattens, area animal shelters are reaching capacity and pleading for help from the community.

Lorri Hare, director of the Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society, said her facility is seeing an unsustainable level of pet surrenders and intakes. 

“A lot of families are feeling financial restraints or having to move into a different area and unfortunately not being able to afford to keep the pets,” Hare said. “The other thing I’ve started wondering about is that during COVID there were a lot of veterinary offices and spay/neuter clinics across the state that restricted their surgeries and walk-in foot traffic.”

Hare said the Humane Society is seeing 30 or more intakes per day, in contrast to an average of six to eight adoptions per day. She said the key to ending the crisis is not necessarily increasing the number of adoptions, but slowing the amount of intakes.

“We focus more on how we can keep animals out of the shelter to begin with. Do people need assistance with pet food? Veterinary care? Low-cost spay/neuter? That’s the key. I always say we can’t adopt our way out of the pet overpopulation problem regardless of how hard any facility works. The only answer is spay/neuter.”

The facility offers a low-cost spay/neuter program to assist families with the cost of veterinary care. Unaltered animals are a leading cause of animal overpopulation. According to the advocacy group SNAP, up to 4,948 kittens can be born from one unspayed female cat and her offspring in seven years. Hare said reducing overpopulation would decrease the amount of stray animals and ease the capacity crisis facing shelters throughout the country. 

Until the larger issues surrounding overpopulation can be tackled, Hare said her organization and similar facilities are working to create temporary space to house more animals. For the Humane Society, that means outdoor kennels. The kennels are reinforced with tarps and straw is spread to provide protection from winter weather, but the spaces are difficult to clean and maintain. Hare said she is relying on rescue organizations outside Kentucky to help ease the pressure on her facility to continue creating space for more animals. 

“We transported 106 animals to Pennsylvania and New York last Friday. We’re doing it again this Friday. If it wasn’t for that, our outdoor kennels at this point would be completely full,” Hare said. 

The capacity strains and high intake numbers are a trend across the region, according to Daviess County Animal Shelter Director Ashley Thompson. She said her facility is converting more space to hold animals. However, unlike the no-kill Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society, the Daviess County Animal Shelter is euthanizing some dogs to allow for higher capacity. 

“We try to make as much room as possible, but at some point you can’t make any more room,” Thompson said. “So there’s some that will be euthanized and usually the ones euthanized are the ones that have behavior issues. For whatever reason, they’ve been here a long time or they’re just probably not going to get adopted or go to rescue because of behavior issues.”

Thompson and Hare both agree the recent onslaught of intakes was not an issue at the beginning of the pandemic. Thompson said at multiple points in 2020, her facility had only one cat and one dog available for adoption. Now, as the shelter prepares to put down additional dogs in the coming days, she hopes volunteers will be the answer to lagging adoptions.

“We need lots of volunteers to come out right now since we are so overcrowded with dogs. Get pictures of the dogs, take them out for walks, sort of get to know their personality, give them a break from being in the kennel. Help us take pictures so we can get those posted so people can see more candid, funny pictures of the dogs and get to know their personality,” Thompson said.

The shelters in Owensboro and Bowling Green are both encouraging community members to consider adopting a pet. Adoptable pets at the Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society can be found here and information about available pets at the Daviess County Animal Shelter’s adoptable pets is here.  


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