CHARLOTTE, N.C. – From California to Florida, animal shelters across the nation are reporting that they’re running out of space for dogs, especially large breeds.
One reason? The demand for "pandemic puppies" has fallen, as people return to work. One possible solution is fostering.
"All shelters across the country need your help. And one of the biggest ways you can help is by fostering," said Melissa Knicely, a spokesperson for Charlotte Animal Care and Control.
Right now there’s no shortage of bigger breeds at Knicely’s shelter. Its dog kennels are at 100% capacity, and they have not dropped below 85% capacity in the past year, which is considered a critical capacity. She says, ideally, their cages would be about half full.
"It is stressful. You hear all the barking? It’s stressful. You get these animals into a home. They get comfortable. You start knowing their personalities," she said.
Knicely says that's why fostering is catching on more at shelters. She says about half of the people who foster a dog end up adopting them. And even if they don’t adopt, fostering can help the shelter understand how a dog behaves around families or other pets for an extended period.
"We have so much information to share to find the right home for that dog," Knicely said.
"Staffing has been an issue from the start of the pandemic, as you can imagine. That's why it’s so important to have people step up and volunteer and foster," said Kitty Block, the President and CEO of the Humane society of the United States.
The Humane Society says an overabundance of dogs isn't the only problem for some shelters — staffing is too. Right now Charlotte Animal Care and Control could hire 13 people on the spot, but finding people to hire is a struggle, Knicely said.
As far as adopting a dog goes, the Humane Society says some people are being priced out because of inflation.
"It’s very hard to find affordable housing that allows pets," Block said.
You can foster a dog for anywhere from one day to several months depending on the organization and the needs of the dog. And sometimes fostering a dog can leave space at the shelter for animals who need special care or management.
"When you foster one animal, you’re really saving two. Because you’re saving the animal that you’re fostering, and you’re making room for the next animal that needs that spot at the shelter," Knicely said.
Knicely says that cats are being adopted at a much quicker rate. Possibly because they fit more easily into people’s busy schedules.