This is not an uncommon occurrence, since BCAS is the county's open admission shelter. That means it must accept every animal that comes through the door whether it's an owner surrender or is brought in as a stray by Animal Control.
When kennels are full, animals must be euthanized to make space. Some animals have reportedly already been put down this week.
Animal overpopulation is not the fault of the shelter. Not only that, but the people in charge there (including the new Chief of Animal Services, Dr. Melissa Jones) appear to care deeply about the animals and have been scrambling to find ways to get animals out alive to make room for more.
This is a difficult task, and it's an issue that needs to be taken up by the Animal Services Oversight Commission which was created by the Baltimore County Council.
Unfortunately, the Commission has not had its first meeting because county officials have yet to work out the logistics for it to happen. This needs to be resolved ASAP.
In the meantime, a number of animal advocates have proposed ideas to begin to ease the overcrowding crisis, and they seem to have merit. Here are a few that make a lot of sense.
1.) Begin requiring those surrendering their pets to make an appointment to do so. In cases where the person surrendering the animal is in crisis, this wait period obviously could be waived. But in many cases, people can and will wait at least a few days.
This is something that's done by many shelters for two reasons. It allows them to plan for some of their intake, and sometimes it even results in owners deciding they can keep their pets after all. That's because the shelter is able to offer them access to services that would help them keep their pet.
2.) One of those services would be low or no cost veterinary care. The shelter would need to develop a network of veterinarians who could offer services at low or no cost. This would be a tremendous help to those who can't afford veterinary care, and might alleviate the need for them to surrender their pet.
3.) Another needed service is behavioral training as many people give up their animals because of behavioral problems. If the shelter had arrangements with behavioral trainers, that would be another service it could offer to pet owners. In fact, what an amazing thing it would be to offer low cost obedience classes right at the shelter. I know there are trainers in this area who would be willing to be a part of that effort.
3.) Begin a training program for animals when they arrive in the shelter. Well-behaved pets are much more adoptable, and are less likely to cause problems once they are adopted that could land them back in the shelter. There are trainers in our area who will surely be willing to offer training to shelter staff and/or volunteers in how to do some basic obedience work.
4.) Start a pet food bank with donations from the public. Save 90 would be willing to make a donation to get it started. If a family is in financial crisis and cannot afford to feed their pet, this could help them avoid the need to give it up.
5.) Put out press releases. I think this goes against the county's way of doing things because authorities don't want to seem like they don't have everything under control. But the animal overpopulation problem is not under anyone's immediate control. And when it gets out of hand, there's no shame in asking for help. Baltimore County should put out a press release, asking the media to publicize the overcrowding problem so that the public can respond by coming to adopt/foster animals. This is not a position of weakness. It's a position of strength to ask for help when it's needed. Many people would want to help, but can't if they don't know there's a problem.
6.) Offer reduced rates for adoptions. This could be part of the press release and could be publicized along with an appeal for adopters and fosters. Reduced fees worked very well at the shelter over the Memorial Day holiday.
Save 90 hopes that shelter administrators will consider these options as a way to ease the current crisis. I know Dr. Jones is trying to save every life possible and that this is a particularly stressful time. I hope she knows she's not alone in feeling the pain and that there are many who want to help in any way they can.
Please scroll down to see the most recent Save 90 post with the latest news and a report on an amazing program called Project Mickey.