Summer is finally here, and that means more ice cream and more beach parties - but, sadly, it also means more animals in need of a home.
Whether it’s unspayed cats giving birth to homeless kittens or dogs being abandoned so their owners can go on vacation, animal shelters and adoption agencies become swamped in the summer. There were 300 fewer animals in the winter than in the summer at the Onslow County Animals Services shelter, according to the organization’s director Howard Martin.
And yet the best way to curb the problem remains the most obvious one: spay or neuter your pet.
Spaying and neutering
“If your dog is in heat and your dog is not fixed it’s the birds and the bees,” Sylvia Kasch, founder of the foster-based program Jaded Paws Rescue, said. The organization sees a spike in puppies every year as the warm weather leads to people letting their dogs out more. “That’s where we step in as an educational rescue.”
Domestic dogs, unlike wild grey wolves, are not monogamous, Martin explained. That means they can breed with any dog on the street, find a new partner and breed again. And data from the National Council on Pet Population shows that 50 percent of puppy litters are unplanned.
Kasch often finds herself explaining to dog owners that the spaying and neutering processes are not harmful to the pets.
“That’s where we step in: look here’s the numbers here’s the data,” Kasch said. “They come home with pain meds. They’ll be alright.”
But it's not just dogs.
According to Vicki Irving, president of Friends of Animal Services, shelters this time of year are inundated with kittens.
Cats and dogs both breed in the spring, yielding their litter in the summer months, according to National Council on Pet Population. Dogs can produce on average two litters of six-to-10 puppies a year, but cats can produce three litters of four-to-six kittens a year and pet owners are more likely to allow their cats to roam the streets and breed with feral counterparts.
“Either they come home and they’re pregnant or the ferals get pregnant and humans find them and bring them to the shelter,” Irving said.
Cats are often allowed to roam free, as they are not tethered by the leash laws that apply to dogs. People, said Irving, are more fazed by seeing a dog wandering the streets than they are by seeing a cat. Dogs are expected to be with their owners and on a leash.
“People aren’t scared of cats,” Irving said. “People are scared of dogs.”
'We are overdogged'
Onslow County Animal Services' shelter currently has 57 cats and 67 dogs, Martin said. There are 28 cats and 13 dogs in foster care. The shelter, however, has a capacity of 63 cats and 57 dogs.
“I have 10 dogs in our veterinary suite,” Martin explained. “We are overdogged. I’m pretty much always over capacity all the time.”
The proximity to Camp Lejeune means that throughout the year, dogs are abandoned when their owners are deployed or move on base where a certain breed isn’t allowed. And the proximity to the ocean means that people will sometimes adopt a dog to play with while at the beach, to be left behind at the end of the season.
“Summertime we see a spike in adoption, but we also see a spike in neglect cases,” Kasch said.
While adopting a kitten or a puppy is not always an option, there are other ways to help shelters this summer. Fostering, for example, can relieve shelters of badly-needed space. Irving, who is currently fostering two kittens, explained that Friends of Animal Services helps match fosters with families looking to adopt.
For more information on Friends of Animal Services visit OnslowFOAS.org. To adopt a pet or for more information on Onslow County Animal Services, call 910-455-0182 or visit them at 244 Georgetown Road in Jacksonville.
Jaded Paws functions in a similar way. Sponsoring an animal can allow a family that would normally not be able to afford an adoption adopt. Another way to help, according to Irving, is donating kitten chow to the shelters.
To to donate or for more information on Jaded Paws call 910-389-2372.
And if you do find a kitten that seems to be abandoned, Irving recommends to leave it.
“The mama leaves the kitten so they can eat so they can feed their baby,” Irving said. “If you’re watching it, the mama’s not going to come when you’re there.”
Reporter Maxim Tamarov can be reached at 910-219-8439 or email@example.com.