State of the Shelter: Animal shelter has overcrowding issue

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(This story by Zack Steen originally appear in the Daily Corinthian and is appearing here with permission.)

(This story is the second in a series on the “State of the Shelter” – a look at the current issues and goals of the nonprofit, no kill Corinth-Alcorn Animal Shelter.)

Over population is a common problem at animal shelters across the country.

It’s one of the Corinth-Alcorn Animal Shelter’s biggest issues as the final weeks of summer come to an end.

The local no kill shelter is bursting at the seams with 58 more cats and dogs then they are allowed to house.

“We are so over crowded,” said Volunteer Director Charlotte Doehner. “We have a serious pet overpopulation problem in the north Mississippi and west Tennessee area, and there are many, many dogs and cats in need.”

As of Friday morning, the shelter held 233 animals.

“The shelter’s maximum number is 175, but we have always done our best to fit in animals wherever possible,” said Doehner.

The situation is a double-edged sword.

The shelter must receive all animals captured by City of Corinth animal control, Alcorn County Board of Supervisors and City of Farmington animal control. It’s because of necessary funding and contracts with these municipalities that the shelter must hold up its end of the deal and intake numbers can be staggering.

“We average daily intakes from the city and county of at least seven to eight animals, but it’s been as many as 22 in one day,” said the director.

Not only does shelter staff realize it has capacity issues, but the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine keeps a close eye on the over crowding issue.

“The vet school has been coming to Corinth and handling our spays and neuters for years, and they have warned us about the shelter’s overpopulation for almost a year,” said Doehner. “Now they are threatening to stop coming if we can’t get it under control. MSU provides a huge cost savings to us and we can’t afford to lose them.”

And euthanization is not an option.

Doehner said the shelter never euthanizes a animal for time or space. They only euthanized 52 of the 1,186 animals accepted in 2016.

The shelter must turn away animals from the public on a daily basis, and sometimes the public doesn’t understand why.

“My staff and I have had to deal with several community members who don’t understand our current problem,” said Doehner. “We have personally received threats and people have caused harm to the shelter and, unfortunately, they have also caused harm to the animal they wanted us to take.”

Unhappy citizens often turn to social media or public officials to voice concern over the shelter’s refusal to take in their animal.

“In a perfect world, we would take every single animal brought into the shelter, but we just can’t afford to – there’s too much riding on just one more,” said the director.

It’s a fine line between those who understand and those who help.

“The community members who help us and understand our trouble outweigh those who don’t by a long shot,” added Doehner. “There’s no dought, we could not survive without our community supporters and animal lovers.”

There is one exception to the public intake rule.

Doehner said she “doesn’t have the heart” to turn away critically injured and abused dogs or cats.

Shelter staff and community animal activists have created multiple avenues to find “fur-ever” homes for sheltered animals in an effort to relieve the pet population problem.

While adoptions have always been good for the local shelter, Doehner has began to see more improvement.

It started happening after she launched $5 cat or kitten Fridays.

Normally ranging from $40 to $30, individuals and families can adopt a cat or kitten for just $5 every Friday until further notice.

“It’s a really great deal and much less than a person might pay at a breeder or store,” said Doehner. “We only launched the program three weeks ago and our feline numbers are already way down.”

The low cost adoption includes spay or neuter surgery, age appropriate vaccines, de-worming treatments, skin treatments, preventive healthcare and follow up calls/visits.

The shelter also hosts several special events each month where adoption fees are normally cut in half.

Doehner said she also works with five other animal rescues based throughout the northeast to find homes for pets.

“We are so fortunate to have great partners that we are able to send dogs and puppies to,” she said. “Many of these rescues are based in the north where there is no such thing as animal over population.”

The local shelter sends around four to five young adult and adult dogs each week to Pennsylvania-based Charlie’s Crusaders Pet Rescue. They work with over populated shelters in Tennessee and Mississippi, covering the adoption and transportation fees to re-home canines in northern states.

Charlie’s Crusaders has agreements with just two Mississippi shelters – the Corinth shelter and a humane society in Tunica County.

The local shelter also has agreements to do the same with the Wolf Trap Animal Rescue, where they send 40 to 50 puppies to the Virginia-based rescue each month. The shelter slipts transport costs with Wolf Trap.

Other partner rescues include North Shore Animal League in upstate New York, Precious Friends Puppy Rescue in northern Kentucky and Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in Virginia.

Another way the shelter is working to get a handle on population problems in the area is through a catch-and-release program for feral cats. The shelter picks up feral animals, brings them to the shelter, has the animals spayed or neutered and then releases them back into the community.

Earlier this month the shelter also partnered with the Alcorn County Board of Supervisors to launch ACSpay, a new program to provide low-cost spaying for female dogs owned by low-income families in Corinth and Alcorn County who may not be able to afford it at regular cost.

The creation of this program, Doehner believes, may make the biggest impact ever on the local animal population problem.

(To donate to the shelter, visit corinthalcornanimalshelter.com or contact 662-284-5800.)