GEORGETOWN St. Frances Animal Center in Georgetown is overrun with cats and dogs who need homes.
The population in that shelter led officials there to waived adoption fees last month, resulting in homes being found for 105 dogs and cats. But center director Wendy Goude said numbers have swelled again.
On Monday, the shelter which comfortably houses 250 animals, had 314 adoptable pets.
“That’s with some adoptions, but they’re coming in as fast as they can,” she said. “They’re coming in the front door. They’re coming in the back door. If we had a side door I’m sure they’d be coming in that way too.”
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According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 5 million to 7 million animals enter shelters nationwide and 3 million to 4 million of them are euthanized, largely due to overcrowding.
St. Frances, which uses promotional events such as one planned for this week to increase adoptions, isn’t the only area shelter experiencing crowding.
JoCarol Hopkins, a volunteer at Coastal Animal Rescue in Murrells Inlet, said that shelter has about 350 cats, about 50 of which are kittens.
“We can’t get enough animals adopted,” she said.
Sandy Brown at the Grand Strand Humane Society said the numbers are high there, where the society’s website says the shelter is providing care for 300 animals, though capacity allows for housing 167.
Brown approached Myrtle Beach City Council on Tuesday to request that impound fees be eliminated. Currently the city charges people who’s lost pets end up at the humane society between $25 and $150 to recover the animal, depending on how long the pet had been there and what care was provided.
Brown said the fee deters people from claiming lost animals and contributes to the overcrowding.
An ordinance to eliminate the impound fee and allow the humane society to negotiate a boarding fee no greater than $10 per day passed a first vote in Myrtle Beach Tuesday.
St. Frances and Coastal Animal Rescue are no kill shelters, and do not euthanize animals to make space. St. Frances will euthanize aggressive animals or any who cannot be treated medically and are suffering. Grand Strand Humane Society is a low-kill shelter, where euthanasia is used as a last resort.
“I refuse to put down an animal that’s healthy or treatable,” Goude said. “It’s not their fault they don’t have a place to go.”
Grand Strand and Coastal Animal Rescue aren’t accepting any more animals from the community because there isn’t any space.
Hopkins and Goude said summer is typically when the shelter population balloons because that’s when kittens and puppies are usually born.
“Summers are high months because you have the kitten and puppy season in the spring,” Goude said. “So, of course, six weeks later these puppies and kittens are being born. That’s when everyone has that good Samaritan in them when we see 50 or 60 people coming in with boxes [of animals] they’ve found on the side of the road.”
But, Goude said it’s worse this year than last year and estimated there has been about 30 percent more animals in the shelter this summer.
She said a spay and neuter ordinance in Georgetown County could help.
“It’s the community’s issue because we don’t have a spay and neuter ordinance in place,” she said.
Hopkins, agreed that spaying and neutering would make a big difference.
“It’s so simple to spay and neuter these animals,” she said. “Then we wouldn’t have this proliferation.”
Microchips, that are kept up-to-date, also “would nearly empty our shelters,” Goude said. That’s because many of the animals that end up at St. Frances are lost dogs or cats, some likely from vacationers.
And Goude said the economy likely plays.
“People are wanting to turn in their animals because they can’t afford them,” she said.She said dogs and cats are in every available space at St. Frances, .
which makes special adoption events necessary. Through Thursday, the shelter is reducing adoption fees as much as 75 percent to help speed adoptions.
But, that creates a financial strain too.
“We had the free adoptions, but that’s how we make our money,” she said. “When you give away your product, you don’t have any money. It’s as simple as that. So, now we have no money and we’re full of animals that need to be fed and need care. We just need some help.”
While adoption is the goal at all three shelters, donations are accepted.
At St. Francis, animals can also be fostered with no commitment to keep the pet.
For more information on adopting, fostering or donating visit www.sfanimals.org, grandstrandhumanesociety.com or coastalanimalrescue.org.