February 6, 2023
By: Jordon Morgan
Published: July 17, 2022
Transylvania County Animal Services has seen a steady uptick in its animal population and as the only dedicated animal shelter in the county they are almost at capacity.
“We are seeing nearly a 10% increase average already in owner surrenders in the United States (per the Shelter Animals Count database) and an 18% increase in our county alone,” said Megan Searcy, the shelter’s team leader and head veterinarian technician. “With the adoption rates being down and the intakes higher, there are numerous rescues across the U.S. that have closed for good or closed for intake for the rest of the year. Everyone everywhere is overwhelmed with the number of animals being surrendered or unclaimed as strays.”
Searcy said the shelter works with most of the rescue nonprofits in western North Carolina, which report they are just as full.
Many animals that are coming through the shelter, she said, are older and have behavioral or health problems that significantly hamper them getting adopted.
Transylvania County Animal Services had a live release rate of 97% for the second quarter of 2022, with 3% being “humanely euthanized,” Searcy said.
“All the animals that were euthanized were either too sick, had endured traumatic injury and/or deemed a public safety issue due to aggression,” she said. “We work very closely with our shelter veterinarians to makes sure that the euthanasia decision is one based in the best interest of the individual animals. “The reality is that with the increasing intake and lower adoptions we are going to have to euthanize for space, and we are not alone in those decisions as fellow shelters across our state and nation are all facing unprecedented times of full kennels, fewer adoptions and more animals coming in everyday with no space for them to be housed.”
Searcy said euthanizing the animals is “the worst part of the job.”
“There’s more good than bad (to the job) but no animal should be at risk due to space,” she said.
While the shelter holds healthy animals for as long as possible, once capacity is reached or if an animal comes in that’s in critical condition, there is not much shelter staff can do. Animals that are in critical condition usually have been seized by authorities from poor-quality homes or illegal breeding conditions. According to Searcy, 24 animals have been seized so far this year.
To try and help animal owners who may be struggling financially, the shelter has a dedicated space for donated food, which can be picked up for free.
“I know what it’s like to only have $5 in your account,” said Searcy, who also pointed to COVID-19 as a possible factor in the increase in animal numbers at the shelter.
She said during the pandemic some vet offices and spay and neutering clinics were closed, likely leading to higher procreation rates among animals
Transylvania County Animal Shelter offers a low-cost spay and neuter clinic with Brother Wolf Animal Rescue in Asheville that preforms the surgery in the shelter parking lot twice a month. These can be scheduled through www.bwar.org/mobile-clinic. The clinics help to reduce the number of animals entering the Transylvania shelter due to accidental litters.
Brother Wolf Executive Director Leah Craig Fieser said her group also moves animals around to and from various other shelters if they’ve been in the system for some time.
“If an animal is not getting adopted, we sometimes move them for a change of scenery, which even that can be a positive thing for them,” she said.
Fieser said certain shelters, particularly ones in Asheville, have a lot more foot traffic than shelters like the one in Transylvania County and thus more opportunities for animals to be adopted.
In 2021, Brother Wolf took in 794 animals from shelters that were overflowing with animals. In the last year, Brother Wolf has taken in 11 dogs from Transylvania County in response to urgent need lists that the county shelter shares with rescue partners.
To learn more about the Transylvania Animal Shelter, call (828) 883-3713 or go to www.transylvaniacounty.org/departments/animal-services.
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