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Dogs, cats crowding Pa. shelter

June 04, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

Dogs and cats are taken to the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter for a variety of reasons ranging from the heartbreaking to the frivolous, but the population spiked recently, causing a space crunch at the shelter on Country Road.

"I'm not 100 percent sure what causes it," Outreach Coordinator Jennifer Vanderau said of the periods of overcrowding. "When it does, we do what we can to get the word out."

People did respond to an appeal the shelter put out in the last couple of weeks, adopting dogs or taking them into temporary foster care to ease the burden, Vanderau said.

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On Thursday, 18 of the shelter's 23 kennels in the adoption area were full, but several other dogs were being spayed and neutered that day and soon would be moved over from the isolation area for adoption.

"By the weekend, every kennel will be filled except one," she said.

The shelter has worked with rescue groups for specific breeds, but Vanderau said an animal has to be nearly purebred for those groups to take it in.

Small dogs and puppies usually are adopted first, Vanderau said. A Shih Tzu taken to the shelter recently was adopted within a couple of hours.

Harder to find homes for are older, larger mixed-breed dogs, she said. Of the 18 dogs in the adoption area Thursday, most were mixed breeds ranging from 39 to 65 pounds, like Fiona, a hound mix.

"People were surrendering them. People were finding them as strays," Vanderau said, and the situation soon could worsen.

"We're getting into puppy and kitten season ... This is the time they're prolific," she said. That day, the shelter had 15 kittens waiting to reach the age to be spayed or neutered, Vanderau said.

"There's a ton of adult cats back there, too," she said. One of them is Jasmine, a content-looking calico who has called the shelter home since April 2005. Another cat, Jolene, spent 14 months at the shelter before being adopted, she said.

"That's the saddest thing, when they grow up in a shelter," Vanderau said.

"We give them every chance," said Jamie Caldwell, the shelter's executive director. "If they're healthy and they don't seem physically distressed, we don't give up on them."

To ease the crunch, Vanderau said the shelter is offering half-price discounts on dogs that have been there the longest and on those more than 6 years old. The dog that has been there the longest is Pretty Girl, a hound mix who has resided there for almost four months.

Caldwell and Vanderau said some animals come in for reasons that are unavoidable - an owner dies, becomes ill or is forced to move.

"In that last couple of years, we've gotten (pets from) people deployed overseas," Vanderau said.

On the forms people fill out when they drop pets off at the shelter, some of the reasons they have cited indicate they did not take the responsibility of owning an animal seriously.

"Didn't match my couch" and "Messed up my hair" were the reasons two people cited for sending their cats to the shelter, Vanderau said.

"It's our goal to put ourselves out of business" by finding homes for all of the animals, said Caldwell, although with 2,000 dogs and cats coming through the shelter each year, that probably will not happen.

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