Full to the brim

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FARMINGTON – It’s more than a full house for the Franklin County Animal Shelter these days.

The shelter has recently gone over capacity for dogs, 22, and is at capacity for cats, 150, said shelter manager Patty Lovell on Tuesday.

The 15 dog kennels are full, but some smaller dogs are kept in crates at night and in play areas during the day to accommodate the increased number, she said. Some of the cats, particularly kittens, are being kept in foster homes.

There’s really no single reason for the burgeoning numbers, said Lovell. The shelter has had an increase in strays not claimed by owners, she said, adding that there have also been some incidents where people have left dogs tied up, or in tubs, near the facility during the night.

In mid-June, two tubs filled with five beagles, all believed to be around 2 years old, were left one night beside the road near the shelter’s mailbox, Lovell said. The staff discovered the animals when they came to work in the morning, no clue about the owners or the dogs’ histories.

The beagles were skinny and shy when first found. Three tested positive for Lyme disease and are being treated. Three of the five remain at the shelter, she said.

“It’s frustrating. We don’t know if it’s an economic problem, health issue or that they are moving. The reason behind it is beyond us,” she said of the beagles that were left at the shelter.

“When the facility is not full, we’re willing to help pet owners resolve these types of issues, but evidently these are people who couldn’t or wouldn’t wait,” she said.

There have been several instances where people have left animals at the facility when no one is there to take them in. One of the saddest, she said, was when the staff came to work to find a rope tied to an outside pen, a collar attached, a dog bed and a note that read: “I can’t take care of my dog anymore.” By the time the staff found the items, the dog had slipped the collar and was gone.

Not having seen the dog and not being able to have the owner come call it, the dog was left to wander, she said.

Cats and kittens have also been left near outside pens around the shelter, some escaping into the woods behind the facility, said assistant manager Jessie Geis. “We don’t know if it was one animal or more that was left by the time we find them,” she said describing her own attempt to corral a couple escaped kittens.

Added to the large numbers of animals, summertime is a slow adoption period for the shelter. “People are on vacation and not interested in adopting a pet, but it picks up in the fall,” Lovell said, adding that the shelter does not euthanize for space. “Animals are kept until a home can be found,” she said.

“The shelter has elastic walls,” she said, speaking about a foster care program that provides temporary care for animals in individual homes.

Last month, a total of 104 cats and kittens were taken in, she said, but the shelter offered free adult-cat adoptions setting a record of 95 cats adopted in three weeks.

“There are also some wonderful dogs here,” she said, including a stray cocker spaniel that had been neglected and a Sheltie whose owner had died.

Increased animals means extra staffing, laundry and food. Each dog gets a blanket at night, creating a lot of laundry. The shelter welcomes donations of food, detergent, dog treats, canned dog food, Pedigree dry dog food and volunteers to walk and give the animals a little love and attention, she said.

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