After having to turn away dogs due to an outbreak of the canine pneumovirus, Orange County Animal Services (OCAS) resumed normal stray intake of dogs, and the shelter quickly became overwhelmed.
In the first week of accepting stray dogs, from October 30th through November 5th, OCAS received 158 dogs. Last week, on November 6th alone the shelter received 40 dogs.
The shelter is now caring for more than 200 dogs and asking for the greater Orlando and Central Florida community to step forward to adopt, foster or attempt to reunite found dogs with their owners before resorting to bringing them to the shelter. Adoption fees have been waived for dogs already spayed/neutered, vaccinated and microchipped, those are designated as “ready to go.”
“Last week we announced our new intake diversion program, an attempt to match struggling pet owners with available community resources to keep them out of the shelter,” said Diane Summers, manager for Orange County Animal Services. “For some pet owners the option to keep the pet wasn’t possible, so there’s a line forming of owned dogs needing to come into the shelter that we won’t be able to help until our dog population is more manageable.”
The shelter unleashed the intake diversion program last week, offering phone consultations to those considering surrendering their pet to the shelter. Dozens of appointments have been booked. When asked “Reason for Rehoming” on the form, a common theme was wanting the pet to have a better life with a different owner. Some of the responses were heartbreaking: “Apartment complex is threatening eviction because of the dog’s size,” “Have nowhere else to go,” “Got Evicted,” “I now have cancer,” “Can’t take care of it,” “Apartment complex doesn’t accept breed,” and “Cannot afford vet services.”
Shelter Animals Count, a national source of animal welfare data, recently published their third quarter analysis for 2023 and noted multiple alarming trends, including a rise in dog stray intakes, a reduction in pets transferring from shelters to rescue groups and a slight decline in dog adoptions. The data shows OCAS is not alone with its dog capacity issue.
“Shelters across the country are struggling with capacity issues as the number of dogs leaving with adopters, foster parents, rescue groups and their owners aren’t keeping pace with the number coming in,” said Summers. “The most heartbreaking realization is that people in fact do want to adopt, but the vast majority are looking for small dogs or puppies.”
Animal Services is asking residents to consider adopting and fostering. For those that have found a stray dog, the shelter is asking finders to first try to locate the owner. “In reviewing our data, we discovered the majority of lost pets were within one mile of home,” said Summers. “Taking the time to post flyers, post on social media, have the pet scanned for a microchip, can make all the difference in getting that pet back home, and quickly.”