5 tips to help animal shelters reduce their intake

A dog waits for adoption at the Wake County Animal Center in Raleigh, NC on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

A dog waits for adoption at the Wake County Animal Center in Raleigh, NC on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

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Crowded out?

Animal intake rates are spiked across the Triangle. North Carolina has the third-highest rate of animal shelter euthanasia in the country. With many at risk of being put down, will rising numbers of unwanted animals reverse years of progress?

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Want to help your local animal shelter reduce its intake and euthanasia numbers?

Here are a few suggestions.

Do your homework before adopting a pet

Adopting a shelter animal can save two lives: your new pet and the animal that can take its space. Sometimes, though, new pets don’t match your lifestyle as well as planned.

To reduce the chances of re-surrender, it’s important to choose an animal that matches your energy level and free time.

Be prepared to pay for long-term care, including grooming, vet checkups and medical emergencies.

Consider how your pet’s needs may change. A puppy may grow really large and need more space. An older dog might ignore new commands, while a younger dog may struggle with bladder control.

Shelters try to learn an animal’s personality. In Durham, online adoption listings are color-coded by general demeanor.

Stray animals have unknown histories, though. Consider bringing your whole household when meeting a potential pet, including children and existing pets.

Register as a pet foster parent

If you’re looking to help shelters take in more animals, consider fostering one.

Adult cats and medium-size adolescent dogs especially need foster homes right now, according to the Animal Protection Society of Durham.

Foster animals may also need to gain weight or practice socializing. Be prepared to foster for up to 10 weeks.

Most counties require foster parents to be 18 and live somewhere that allows pets. Any other pets in the house must be spayed or neutered and vaccinated, plus foster parents must have room to isolate new animals for at least 10 days.

Some shelters or rescues may look at your insurance coverage or do a home visit. Most require you to live within driving range of the shelter.

Take in a pet for a short stay with a ‘sleepover’ program

Some shelters and rescues maintain short-term foster programs, lasting a few nights or a weekend.

These are ideal if you love animals but can’t care for one permanently said Molly Goldston, executive director of Saving Grace Animals for Adoption in Wake Forest.

They can also act as a trial run. At the SPCA of Wake County, potential adopters can sign up for 5-day “sleepovers” for dogs older than 1 year, and week-long “sleepovers” for cats.

Interacting with rescue animals outside the shelter brings out their true personalities, said Goldston, which will help find their ideal owners.

Saving Grace runs short-term host programs on weekends, and APS of Durham allows sleepovers as short as one night if you’re registered with the shelter as a dog walker.

Help spread the word for those looking to rehome a pet

When a pet needs a new home, finding one outside of the shelter system can save resources and space for stray animals.

It also gives you more insight into your new pet. Many shelters will change an animal’s name or close its records after it is surrendered.

Orange County residents can list their pet on Rehome OC. Sites like Adopt-A-Pet and Petfinder are also popular nationwide, and Facebook can be an adoption hub.

The Humane Society also recommends talking to your vet and putting up fliers.

Even if you do surrender your pet to a shelter, scheduling an appointment a few weeks out and trying to rehome it in the meantime can help staff better prepare for your animal’s arrival.

Get your pet spayed or neutered

Spaying or neutering your pet is voluntary in North Carolina, but it saves money on pet licensing fees.

Plus, higher spay/neuter rates lead to fewer unwanted pets, which reduces crowding in shelters and ultimately lowers euthanasia rates.

Spaying or neutering your pet can also help it live longer, the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program of North Carolina reports.

Some county animal shelters offer free or discounted spay/neuter services or run their own clinics. Some counties are served by veterinarians with low-cost programs, and some are served by mobile spay-neuter units from SNAP NC.

This story was originally published August 5, 2022 6:00 AM.

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Ilana Arougheti is a metro reporting intern at The News & Observer. They are a rising senior at Northwestern University, where she was most recently a city desk editor at The Daily Northwestern. You can reach Ilana at [email protected].


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