Lack of space at the Charlotte animal shelter, euthanasia case

Capacity issues at Charlotte-Mecklenburg animal shelters contributed to a 40% increase earlier this summer in the number of dogs being put down or euthanized, according to a recent analysis of public records by The Charlotte Observer.

For most of this year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control officials have raised concerns about lack of space and staff, combined with an increase in the number of pets and animals being cared for by the shelter.

The average number of dogs euthanized per day for June and July was just over 3, according to records provided by animal control.

Compared to 2020, this is more than double the number of dogs killed in the shelter during the same period. Two years ago, 74 dogs were put down during that two month period. Last June and July it was 124. Figures for June and July 2022 show that at least 173 dogs were euthanized, a 40% increase from June-July 2021.

Euthanized dogs

It’s unclear how many dogs in recent months have been put down specifically because the shelter lacked space or staff to care for them. But, confirmed Melissa Knicely, spokeswoman for Animal Care and Control, the lack of space and the lack of staff led to the euthanasia of some dogs. Under better circumstances, euthanasia at the shelter is usually limited to putting down dogs with significant medical problems or a history of harming people or other animals.

The Observer previously reported that the shelter has the space to house at least 155 dogs with 220 stainless steel cages and 165 dog pens.

Some dogs have been put down for behavioral issues that could otherwise have been avoided if staff had had time to work with them.

“If we have the ability to work with these dogs that are showing a bit of a problem, they wouldn’t be listed for euthanasia,” Knicely said. “But when we have four dogs who haven’t had a chance to be adopted yet, waiting to come in, you have to make some really tough choices.”

Cash, a pit bull mix, stands in his kennel awaiting adoption at the CMPD Animal Care and Control shelter in Charlotte, North Carolina, Friday, July 22, 2022. Alex Slitz [email protected]

She said the number of euthanasias for cats and dogs has taken its toll on staff.

“It was very, very hard. Because we want to save lives here,” she said.

Knicely said a lack of staff diminishes their “caring capacity,” meaning that while they may have cages available, they don’t have the staff to adequately care for the animals. By early July, the agency had about 12 open positions and more than 80 employees working.

“Like everyone who is experiencing staffing shortages, so are we,” Knicely said.

The shelter needs staff to provide an acceptable quality of care to the animals, otherwise their quality of care declines and they cannot accommodate as many animals. Workers and volunteers must clean the cages, walk the dogs, feed the animals, do laundry and dishes, and help with various medical and behavioral cases.

The shelter earned a “no kill” designation for the first time in 2020, meaning it had a “save rate” of 90%.

Charlotte Animal Shelter Capacity

In addition to a lack of staff, the shelter suffers from a lack of foster families for dogs.

Although more than 1,000 people have signed up for foster care, by mid-July only 26 dogs had been released from the shelter and placed in foster care.

Despite an increase in the number of euthanasias in Charlotte, the shelter is still one of the best in North Carolina, says John Graves, North Carolina strategist for the Best Friends Animal Society, a dedicated nonprofit organization. to end unnecessary euthanasia.

“Charlotte is one of the most progressive and dedicated life-saving communities we have here in North Carolina, I can tell they are actively working to save as many lives as possible,” Graves said.

Globally, North Carolina has the third highest euthanasia rate in the country, according to Graves. Wilkes County in the northwest of the state has the highest euthanasia rate in North Carolina.

A piglet at the CMPD Animal Care and Control shelter in Charlotte, North Carolina, Friday, July 22, 2022. Alex Slitz [email protected]

Nearly 28,790 dogs and cats were killed in animal shelters across North Carolina last year, according to the nonprofit’s Community Dashboard. The group hopes to make North Carolina a kill-free state by 2025.

Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control has been sending adoption and placement applications since last fall and hasn’t had the space it needed for incoming dogs, according to official statements in recent months.

A tracker at the shelter’s site has been indicating since at least April that they have 0-10 kennels available for incoming dogs. When the shelter is “good,” it has more than 35 kennels, the tracker says.

The Charlotte Observer contacted the City of Charlotte to ask what they planned to do about the capacity issues. They responded by email to say that CMPD is working to fill vacancies, and from FY19-FY22, $9 million has been allocated to upgrade the shelter.

A national housing problem

In January, the Best Friends Animal Society warned of “a national animal shelter crisis.” After an analysis of shelter data, he said about 100,000 more dogs and cats in U.S. shelters are awaiting adoption than this time last year due to issues caused by the pandemic.

After evaluating 150 shelters, the company said 88% were understaffed.

“Admissions have increased and adoptions have decreased at shelters, contributing to a difficult environment to save lives,” Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, said in a press release about the statistics. “Adopting a pet can help ease the stress that shelters are going through, so if you can, I urge you to adopt now.”

Graves said Charlotte was put up with “an imperfect storm” with the outbreak of panleukopenia, a few large dog admissions and lawsuits.

Knicely also mentioned that court is a big deal for the shelter. While cases of abuse, neglect or other cases of animal cruelty are being tried, Animal Care and Control is responsible for keeping dogs as evidence, and these cannot be adopted. About 46 kennels are busy with this, and the backlog in North Carolina court cases is severely affecting their capacity, she said.

People also don’t always know to check with the shelter for their lost pets, she says. She encourages that as soon as someone realizes their pet is missing, they call the shelter and that pet owners implant a microchip so animal control can return their pets immediately without them coming to the shelter. and do take a kennel.

Since 2019, the population of the Charlotte metro area has grown exponentially, Knicely said in a presentation about the shelter. Which means that the number of pets has also increased in the community. Inevitably, this also means the number of stray or lost animals entering the shelter will likely increase with population growth, she said.

For more information on how to volunteer, foster, or take dogs on vacation, visit the shelter’s website.

Carson Zalizniak, 14, of Wahxaw, NC, pets Opie in a meeting room at the CMPD Animal Care and Control shelter in Charlotte, NC on Friday, July 22, 2022. The Zalizniak family has decided to foster Opie who will help create a kennel up at the shelter. Alex Slitz [email protected]

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Kallie Cox covers public safety for The Charlotte Observer. They grew up in Springfield, Illinois and attended school at SIU Carbondale. They reported on police accountability and barriers to LGBTQ immigration for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. And, they previously worked at the Southern Illinoisan before moving to Charlotte.

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