Central Pennsylvania Humane Society struggles to care for large number of 'pandemic pets'
Filled with the barks of more than 50 dogs, the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society in Altoona is over its capacity. That’s causing strain on the animals and staff of the no-kill shelter, manager Dylan Kotrick said.
Kotrick said the shelter’s capacity is 50 dogs, though 30-40 provides more adequate space and attention for each canine. Currently, there are 54 dogs housed on site, and some are living in outdoor cages.
The cat side of the shelter, Kotrick said, is overfull as well, although much quieter. High numbers of cats, however, are much more common, he said.
“It’s bad right now, and there’s really no solution,” Kotrick said.
He said he began to notice an increase in animals at CPHS about nine months ago but a much larger increase in the past three months.
The number of pets in the shelter’s care, Kotrick said, is causing staff to work longer hours and is limiting space for each pet.
“The reality is when they’re stuck in that cage with so many more and always barking, it has to be hard for them to relax and unwind and just be a dog,” he said.
Among the shelter staff of more than a dozen, Kotrick said morale is low and “physical and emotional burnout” is increasingly common.
Many of the animals in the shelter’s care are “COVID pets,” animals acquired during the pandemic that some owners have since surrendered.
“We were lucky to get a friendly pup in [during the pandemic], and it would last here two weeks before it got adopted,” he said. “Now, for some of the dogs here, they’re friendly, they’re good with people, some are good with dogs, some are good with cats, and they’re still sitting here.”
With adoption rates low, Kotrick said the solution to the shelter’s overcrowding is unclear. In the meantime, it will simply be a “learning curve” for the staff.
In its current state, CPHS cannot accept stray cats and dogs or pets surrendered by their owners, Kotrick said. However, Kotrick said the shelter will always attempt to admit animals that are sick or injured to its care.
“I’m just here for the animals. I’m not here for myself,” he said. “I just want to make sure they’re cared for, and they go to good homes.”