The Athens County Dog Shelter, or ACDS, has experienced an influx of dogs in recent weeks, pushing the facility to near-capacity and causing it, and supporting organizations, to increase the level of care they provide.
ACDS Warden Ryan Gillette described the number of dogs coming to the shelter as an ebb and flow; some days they may receive no new dogs and on other days they may receive 10 or 12. The shelter takes in stray dogs, as well as others surrendered by their owners for various reasons.
Gillette cited financial strain as a major contributing factor to why some Athens County residents surrender their animals. Oftentimes, vet bills and food costs can make it difficult for pet owners to provide quality care. He also said some pet owners’ landlords ask their tenants to get rid of their pets.
“A lot of times it's strays, and then oftentimes we wonder about people bringing the dog in and saying they found it somewhere — whether or not it was actually theirs and they wanted to get rid of it or something,” Gillette said. “You know, we don't always have people tell us the truth. We try to accommodate everybody the best we can.”
The shelter has a capacity of 45 kennels, including puppy kennels, quarantine spaces, general kennels, holding spaces and overflow kennels. As of Aug. 19, ACDS only had five available spaces.
Adoptions also come and go in waves, Gillette said, with some days seeing double-digit adoptions and others very few at all.
To mitigate capacity strain on the shelter and limit euthanasia, Friends of the Shelter Dogs, or FOSD, helps provide veterinary care and promote the adoption and fostering of shelter dogs. Volunteers with the organization also provide exercise and companionship for dogs at ACDS.
Mindy Oehlers, FOSD volunteer coordinator, said the recent influx of shelter dogs caused FOSD to elevate its work in placing adoptable dogs in homes and recruiting volunteers. Four of the small staff’s volunteers work to find and approve foster families.
“Once the shelter started to get full, our group really stepped up our plea for local fosters and tried to get some additional board members to help with the foster application process,” Oehlers said. “It was kind of an all-hands-on-deck situation to get people onboarded as foster homes and get dogs out as quickly as possible.”
She described the Athens community as being extremely willing to mobilize and help care for the new dogs and the increased workload that accompanies them. Numerous people who had previously contacted FOSD began to foster and many applied to volunteer.
“With more dogs comes more work, and more walks that need taken, and more play sessions in the yard that need done, so our community really has been super responsive as far as the plea for volunteers and fosters goes,” Oehlers said.
Along with recruiting foster families and placing animals, FOSD occasionally finds shelter for dogs at other rescues in Ohio and the Midwest region, when necessary. The nonprofit also hosts adoption and exposure events to connect potential families with shelter dogs.
The Ohio University campus organization, Bobcats of the Shelter Dogs, or BOSD, works in conjunction with FOSD to provide care and support for the Athens County shelter dogs. University students help walk, bathe and spend time with the animals, alleviating some of the burden of care from the shelter. The organization also helps fundraise to cover medical and food costs for the dogs, in addition to assisting with adoption events.
BOSD fundraiser events often feature current shelter dogs that community members can interact with, BOSD President Maddy Mitchell said.
“A lot of calls that go to the shelter after those events say that they want to do meet and greets and stuff, so we're a big way to get the word out there for the shelter,” Mitchell said.
Both FOSD and BOSD have events approaching in September. FOSD’s next adoption event will take place at Tractor Supply at 11 a.m. on Sept. 10. BOSD is hosting fundraisers during OU’s Parents Weekend Sept. 23, noon to 4 p.m., and Sept. 24, 10:30 to 2:30 p.m. at College Gateway.
Gillette also encouraged Athens residents to buy their dogs tags, which are a significant source of revenue for the shelter and help it continue to provide care for its animals.
“Running the shelter, keeping the lights on in here, making sure that the dogs have everything they need, including medical care, that's all about dog tags,” Gilette said. “We encourage everybody to purchase their dog tags and help run the shelter and make sure that these guys have a fighting chance.”