Overcrowding may force Fairfield shelter to euthanize

WINNSBORO – Because of severe overcrowding and weeks of unrelenting heat, the heretofore no-kill Fairfield County Animal Shelter may have to start euthanizing animals, says Bob Innes, the shelter’s director.

The overcrowding has reached an intolerable point in the last six weeks due to a sudden drop in the number of pets being adopted and fostered, an increase in pet surrenders, and the large number of pets picked up off the streets.

In light of the overcrowding, which currently has the shelter at more than double its 44-pet capacity, Innes has issued an urgent plea for help from anyone in the county or surrounding counties who is able to foster or adopt animals.

“We’ve never euthanized for space since I came here, which was in October, 2016, but I’m afraid we’re going to be left with no choice if we don’t get some relief soon,” Innes says.

In a recent post on the Friends of Fairfield County Animal Shelter Facebook page, shelter volunteer Samira Yaghi made a passionate plea for help from the public.

“Folks, I honestly don’t know what tomorrow or the weeks to come hold for our dogs at the shelter. Their fate is unknown as we continue to struggle for space,” she wrote.

“We are at a loss and complete standstill. I [don’t know] what is going to happen, but we are all faced with extremely challenging times and decisions. And this is true of every shelter, coordinator and director/manager I have chatted with,” Yaghi wrote.

“Our shelter has zero dogs leaving this week. None. And only three cats leaving. We only had one transfer last week, a dog,” she wrote

Yaghi said that as the shelter continues to add to the surrender list waiting to come in, it is still picking up strays in need.

“We have very little staff to care for these animals,” she wrote.  “To have to continue to sardine animals into a shelter that is not set up for this influx is extremely disheartening.”

It’s hot outside the shelter and hot inside the shelter, making overcrowding even more uncomfortable for those animals confined to crates.

Innes says a major contributing factor in Fairfield is that too many people are still not being responsible toward their animals, and he says it’s a problem that’s getting worse rather than better.

Overbreeding Pit Bulls

Another ongoing contribution to the shelter’s overcrowding is backyard breeders, Innes said.

“They just breed pit pulls after pit bulls, and then when the mamas have had so many litters, they disregard them, and a big percentage of these pups that are sold off to a lot of different people end up running in the streets, and we [animal control] end up picking them up,” he said.

Ninety percent of the pets in the shelter, he says, are consistently pit bulls. The other 10 percent are other (mostly mixed) dog breeds and cats.

Innes says even animal rescues up north, where many of the South’s excess shelter animals are sent for adoption, have stopped accepting animals because adoptions are down there, too.

In the last six weeks, he says, such adoptions have all but stopped.

“I’m not only talking about local rescues; I’m talking about all rescues,” Innes says. “Where we would move 10 dogs a week, we’re likely to only move one. Rescues are just not taking animals.”

He says many factors play into this trend.

Right now is a difficult time of year for animal fostering and adoption because people are on vacation and may put off plans to take in a pet until they return,” he says.

Also, many people are returning to work after the Covid-19 pandemic, which means some people may no longer have the time available to foster or adopt pets in need.

While there has been recent positive news at the shelter, mainly the award of $35,000 in grant funding from Petco on behalf of Yaghi’s extraordinary, nationally recognized volunteer efforts at the shelter, the situation with overcrowding is dire and extremely stressful on both the animals and the staff.

Innes says the county has made a $10,000 commitment to pay for plans to be drawn up at some point for a new shelter facility with space for 80 dogs and a veterinary clinic, but such a facility is still years away.

The overcrowding problem, by contrast, is immediate – and Innes is hopeful that people will foster or adopt pets from the shelter so they don’t have to be euthanized.

“Anyone interested in fostering a dog or cat or adopting and looking after it properly, please call us at (803) 815-0805,” Innes said. “Every animal deserves a chance.”

The shelter is locate at 1678 U.S. Highway 321 Business N. in Winnsboro.

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