MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. — Maricopa County said kennels are full at its animal shelters.
That's because 700 animals are currently in the care of the county's animal care and control department.
It's the first time this year the county has no more kennels available. Shelter staff said it's months ahead of when they usually run out of room.
'Sooner this year than we anticipated'
"We were expecting this," Hannah Carl, communications officer for Maricopa County Animal Care and Control said. "It did come a lot sooner this year than we anticipated."
Carl said usually summers bring more unplanned litters, and the shelter takes in more animals than are being adopted out.
But usually, the shelter doesn't get full for the first time in the calendar year until June or July.
"I think this summer, we're seeing the effects of the earlier days of the pandemic when veterinary clinic clinics were shut down and not offering spay-neuter surgeries," Carl said.
Carl said while they did see an increase in adoptions of pets during the pandemic, their return rate has increased proportionally. Carl said she does not believe the shelter is full because people are returning pets they adopted during the height of COVID.
Volunteers needed as pets deteriorate
When the shelter gets full, Carl said it means staff can't give each animal the attention they deserve.
On top of that, Carl said more dogs than usual are deteriorating in the shelter.
"A lot of dogs will jump in their kennels and spin. Some will drool excessively, it can really vary," Carl said noting deterioration looks different on every dog.
Carl said giving more exercise and enrichment to the dogs helps them from becoming stressed in the shelter setting.
However, Carl said what is badly needed are volunteers to help.
"We're really struggling to recruit volunteers, we would benefit so much with the help of more volunteers coming in every day and walking these dogs," Carl said.
This year, Carl said four dogs have been put down because of deterioration in the shelter.
"We don't want that, we want to see every animal get out of the shelter and into a loving home," Carl said.
Carl said it's the volunteers that could help keep dogs' stress levels down.
"It means the world for that dog just getting out of the kennel one time a day," Carl said. "It can drastically improve their overall personality and the way they present themselves."
Working to get animals adopted out
Carl said Maricopa County Animal Care and Control is working to expand the foster program to help keep shelter counts lower.
The shelters are also running an adoption special on adult dogs from April 14-19 to try and help. Adoption fees on dogs over 5 months old will be just $25.
"Our biggest need is to get animals out," Carl said.
How people handle strays can also affect how full the shelters get. Carl encouraged people who find strays in their neighborhood to try and find the owners first instead of bringing them straight to the shelter.
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