NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Animal shelters in the Western New York region are at their limits.
For some, the influx is due to a large number of people returning their animals but others are receiving strays.
The Chautauqua County Humane Society said it has a total of 25 dogs and 100 cats. The shelter is filled to the brim, according to the shelter's operator.
At the Erie County SPCA, there is not an influx of the regular surrender of animals, but chief communications officer and senior manager at the SPCA Gina Lattuca, said the shelter usually anticipates this around this time of year. The shelter plans surrenders through a waiting list for both cats and dogs.
NOTE: The Erie County SPCA is looking to increase its foster care volunteer team because it anticipates a busy kitten season in the spring.
The Niagara County SPCA has 43 dogs. The main reason Niagara County SPCA is dealing with the influx is due to owners returning their pets.
"We actually doubled our adoptions this year, as we did last year but we still have a lot of dogs that need homes," Emily Burow said.
Burow works in the Niagara County SPCA Behavior Department.
She said the kennels there are full, which is a dramatic change from this time only two years ago.
"In 2020, we did have a lot of adoptions. We didn't have any dogs in kennels. There were a ton of dogs that found homes then. Since then, dogs are coming up as strays. A lot more owner surrenders. Our kennels are completely full now. Back in 2020, we were having a lot of empty kennels but now all of our kennels are full," Burow said.
Since then, dogs and cats are being surrendered at an alarming rate for the shelter.
One of these unlucky pups includes 4-year-old, Leia.
She has lived at the shelter for exactly 640 days, essentially a year and 7 months.
"Leia came to us as an owner surrender. She was surrendered to us due to no fault of her own. She's an absolutely wonderful dog. She just hasn't found her person yet."
Her perfect home would be a cat-free home, with maybe a calm dog or even an owner with her as their only fur friend. She is hoping to get adopted before her fifth birthday in June.
"She's been around a child as young as 7 so far. She's a very sweet girl but she just hasn't found her person yet," Burow explained.
The biggest obstacle in trying to get the pup adopted is her breed. her size and features can be intimidating to some.
"There is a stigma out there. She is a dog that kind of has a boxy head, so she has some pity features. That is a stigma for a lot of people which is heartbreaking," she explained. "And sometimes, people see long resident dogs and think that they're here for a reason. She just hasn't found her person."
Thanks to a donor, Leia's adoption fee has been paid in full. Additionally, $100 will go towards her training expenses, to ensure success.
"There's a decompression period. We like to do the 3 day, 3 week, 3 month rule. In order to help bridge that gap and set her up for success, it would be great for her to meet a trainer in the home," she said.
A decompression period is the calming period a dog needs when first arriving into your home.
A dog needs this time to adjust to its new environment, the people in the environment and other animals.
The average decompression time for dogs could take a few weeks or months, depending on the dog, according to the American Kennel Club.
"She loves chew toys. She really likes Nylabones. Those are her favorite. She likes to sit and chew on Nylabones in her kennel. She likes to come out into the behavior room and lounge around. She'll hang out on the bed. She loves belly rubs. Any sort of attention for Leia is what she wants," Burow said.
Some animal shelters in other states have offered free pet adoptions due to overcrowded shelters.
Leia, the sweet pup, has been in at the @niagaraSPCA for 640 days. It’s the longest a dog has been at the no-kill shelter. She was retuned by her owner for personal reasons. If you or anyone you know is able to adopt her, please contact the #NiagaraCounty SPCA at (716) 731-4368. pic.twitter.com/R6CIsX9t8u— Pheben Kassahun (@PhebenKassahun) March 7, 2022
Pheben Kassahun asked Burow if that would be the case here but she says that's highly unlikely.
"There might be different promotions that can go on to help find particular dogs homes with sponsored training and adoption fees, but we really like to make sure everyone is in it for the long run with our dogs. Even if we just set up people with training, like how she[Leia] gets some money to go home with her, I think that would be the best plan," Burow said.