The problem came to a head at the Chautauqua County Humane Society in the spring. Too many dogs, some of them strays, being held and not enough space had thrown the Strunk Road facility into a crisis.
To ease their burden, the Humane Society temporarily waived their dog adoption fee.
To limit future overcrowding, the Humane Society is updating its contracts with 29 communities, mostly in Chautauqua County, that deal with keeping and adopting stray dogs.
Kellie Roberts, executive director of the Humane Society, said the organization had begun examining the contracts that had been made with towns and villages since the mid-2000s. The spring’s overcrowding crisis prompted efforts to change the method by which dogs are brought to the Humane Society to be held or given up for adoption.
“The dogs that came in, you know, we might have dogs that got bitten in.” Roberts to The Post-Journal. “We may have dogs running loose; we may have a suspected dangerous dog; We could have had the owner go to the hospital and the (dog control officer) brought the dog here. We really became a collection point for every dog in most of the county that someone needed space for.”
From 2019 to 2021, the Humane Society adopted an average of 165 dogs per year from contract communities. The recording also includes animals brought into the facility by law enforcement.
That spring, Roberts said the Humane Society began calling employees and dog control officials in the communities it contracts with to inform them that there was no room for additional dogs.
Under the previous contract, stray dogs or dogs obtained from the police who needed to be temporarily detained were brought to the Humane Society. The organization would keep the animal until it was returned to its owner or given up for adoption.
“There was a Monday, must have been late May or early June, that we started calling the town clerks and the[dog control officers]and letting them know we were full. “We’re sorry, we’re not making that choice. There’s nothing else we can do’” She said. “And most of them have been very understanding of that and things like that, but that’s really where the whole change started.”
PLACE FOR PREMIUM
A few years ago, the Humane Society sold its holding center on Fluvanna Avenue in Jamestown because it was in too much need of repairs. Roberts said the facility, which could house up to 30 dogs, was used by the Humane Society for both strays and overflows.
Without the holding center, the organization treated all animals at their Strunk Road location.
“One thing we know across the country is that we now have more animals overall, at least as many animals wanting to come into shelters now, but our adoptions aren’t going as fast as they were before the pandemic.” said Roberts. “Even though we have more animals wanting to come in, or the same number of animals wanting to come in, they just aren’t going as fast.”
And then spring came.
“We’ve just started bringing in a lot of dogs from our[dog control officers]and the police who we have contracted with.” said Roberts.
The Humane Society has also been keeping tabs on the Companion Animal Care Standards Act for Shelters and Rescues — legislation that passed the State Assembly and Senate in May but has yet to be signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
In his legal justification, Joseph Addabbo Jr. said the goal of the bill was to raise standards of care for pets at all animal shelters and animal shelters across New York while eliminating invalid and unenforceable laws.
Among these, the bill highlights ongoing training for shelter staff; requires records of all animals, including health and behavior; prohibitions “Dangerous and Reckless” animal transport methods; and requires that all entities have a clear, written management structure that defines personnel authority, reporting structure and responsibilities.
Roberts said the bill would limit the use of crates for animals longer than 30 minutes at a shelter, which the Humane Society had done when space was limited. “That’s the big factor in housing. We can no longer use crates.” She said.
Most communes were offered a new secondary contract with the Humane Society. As part of the contract, municipalities must find alternative locations or organizations to keep dogs.
The Humane Society will consider donating dogs after conducting an evaluation. There are also now fees for taking a dog for adoption.
“Most of the cities were offered the second contract,” said Roberts. “They have to run their own operations or contract with another entity to do this. Once the stray has left or they cannot find the owner, they can contact us to let us know they have a dog and feel it is available for adoption.”
A handful of communities have been offered a main contract where the Humane Society will serve as the main housing if space is available. With municipalities that have a main contract, there is a monthly fee of $40 per dog.
The town of Ellicott, where the Humane Society is located, was one of the communities that was offered a major contract. Council members approved the agreement at a recent meeting.
“There was always a solid relationship” Ellicott Town Superintendent Janet Bowman spoke of the partnership between the Humane Society and the town.