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Palm Beach County animal shelter faces critical overcrowding crisis

Palm Beach County animal shelter faces critical overcrowding crisis, urgently seeks adopters and volunteers
sad dog behind bars
Posted at 11:44 PM, May 29, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - — Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control is reporting its capacity is at a "critical level" as its kennels are "dangerously full."

"Unfortunately, we are very crowded. We have to pair dogs up, when sometimes dogs don't really want to be paired up, but we don't have a choice," said David Walesky, the assistant director with PBCACC.

The shelter reports that more than 200 dogs are there right now with only 148 kennels. They have also resorted to bringing in smaller overflow kennels to accommodate the demand.

"And these animals are pets people have surrendered?" asked WPTV reporter Joel Lopez.

"Every scenario you can imagine, whether it's people getting evicted, whether it's surrenders coming in, strays, we get animals in from a variety of sources as well as like crime scenes," Walesky said.

Staff said summer is when they usually see the largest influx of animals, and the concern now is that they won't be able to handle that rush if their kennels are full.

"There are too many dogs here, and we're trying to do everything we can to get them out of here alive," Walesky said.

He said there are about 15 dogs on the shelter's list to be euthanized to make room for more arrivals, including less adoptable dogs that have medical needs or behavioral issues.

"People need to understand if they have to make space for one of those animals, another one has to go. There's no other place to put them," said PBCACC's lead volunteer, Heather Smith.

"For you, who is so hands-on with these animals, when you hear one of them is up to be euthanized, how do you react to that?" Lopez asked.

"It's heartbreaking because I would say 99% of the dogs that do have to be euthanized are being done so by no fault of their own," Smith said. "I mean, it's their lives. They're our pets. They don't deserve it."

Smith said the longest resident is named Crixus, who has been at PBCACC since Dec. 1.

To save the dogs, the center is waiving adoption fees through June and calling for foster families who can foster a dog for as little as one week at a time.

Smith said she runs a short-term foster program between PBCACC and Peggy Adams Animal Rescue. Staff said eligible dogs selected by Peggy Adams will have a sign on their kennel that reads "Peggy's Pick."

"I vet you. If the dog is going to be a good fit for your home, you literally take it home with food and a crate and toys, and you keep it for seven days and you drop it off at Peggy Adams, where they are not open admission and they are safe from being euthanized," Smith said.

Smith said she works with applicants and calls the financial hurdles families are facing an "epidemic" as clients are cutting costs, and some affordable housing options don't allow pets.

"Yeah, I would call it an epidemic. It's getting worse. It's not just here; it's everyone throughout the U.S.," Smith said. "There are legitimate circumstances that people do have to bring their dogs in here. What choice does a shelter have when there literally is not another space to put an animal?"

PBCACC is also in need of help from volunteers, especially during summer, which they say is their busiest time.

"We need tons of hands of people to come in here, spend time walking the dogs, enriching the dogs. We're working on great enrichment programs," Smith said.

Those interested in adopting or fostering can visit the PBCACC's website: https://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/animalcare/Pages/default.aspx