Wow, what an incredible difference a couple of weeks can make! I am so pleased to share this Monday update with all of you. It was just over two full weeks ago, on Saturday, April 16th, that more than 60 dogs were relinquished to animal control by a single owner and subsequently brought to the Shelter. Overnight, the number of dogs in the Shelter doubled and we were forced to adapt by decreasing the available kennel space for each individual animal and instituting an emergency foster onboarding system. It is the first major hoarding case of my tenure at the Shelter, and the most significant one for the organization in recent memory.
The average number of animals in our care on a daily basis since the beginning of the calendar year is 132. Just a week ago, we reached a high of 225, including 64 new dogs altogether plus 12 puppies who were born after the relinquishment. The owner of the dogs also surrendered 9 feral cats and 13 small birds before fully vacating the property. Without the ability to hire temporary staff, our team went into overdrive, working long hours and extra days to ensure we maintained our usual standards of care and met the increased needs of some of these neglected newcomers. Even with more than $8,000 paid in overtime, we couldn’t have done it without the influx of support from our community.
Every single dog who was eligible for foster care the week the hoarded dogs came in went out into the community with a volunteer. We went from having none to having dozens of dogs in foster homes throughout Laramie County. Whereas we had averaged just 13 dog adoptions per week in the month leading up to this event, we did 33 that first week and 29 the week after. Currently, there are fewer than 5 adoptable dogs in the Shelter who were here when the hoarder dogs were brought in. Our partners across town at Black Dog Animal Rescue helped us out by transferring 9 dogs, including one very pregnant female, into their care. So far, they are the only agency who has been able to accept some transferred animals.
Using a fast-track process that identified the animals most likely to quickly be adopted, our team was able to assess animals for medical and behavioral needs and adoptability, list them online, and begin scheduling adoption appointments within just 4 days of their initial arrival. Since that time, 22 have already been adopted and another 11 are on adoption hold. We have one female bullmastiff still waiting to deliver a litter and the other puppies and their mommas are in foster care until they are old enough to be placed for adoption.
This morning, we opened the gates dividing our kennels into two in one of our adoption rooms, restoring the usual housing space to the adoptable dogs in that area. Our total population is already down to a manageable 177. Only four birds have yet to be adopted but we still have more feral cats awaiting colony or barn home placements than we would like.
I am so proud of our team and so grateful to this community! Thanks to this combined effort, we have made it through a very intense time and come out in a better spot because of it. Dozens of dogs who had been waiting weeks or months for adoption prior to this case, and all the attention it brought, are now beginning the rest of their lives in forever homes. We have enough dry dog food to last us many months, possibly even as long as an entire year! We are fully stocked on bleach and laundry detergent. Our foster and volunteer programs got a jolt of new life and momentum, something we are hoping will continue for the foreseeable future, and we were able to experiment with a new and more efficient adoption process – one which is here to stay.
There is much to celebrate this week, but still lots of work to be done, too! Thanks to support from the Bissell Pet Foundation, we are offering deeply discounted adoption fees on all adult dogs, including those who remain from the hoarding situation, for the next two weeks. Fees are only $25, but any extra monetary donations are welcome. We have eliminated our appointment-based process and are now allowing for walk-in adoptions.
We are still working our way through the complicated process of grooming these giant dogs and getting them all spayed and neutered, tasks aided by help from private businesses like Nirvana Pet Spa, Frontier Veterinary Clinic, and Cottonwood Veterinary Clinic. There are photos to be taken and loaded to the website, applications to process, and adoption meetings to be had. We are still paying overtime and have yet to calculate the total costs incurred during the second week, but estimate those costs to exceed $20,000 by the time we settle back into a more normal schedule. That is money we cannot budget for and will therefore have to make up through additional fundraising efforts throughout the remainder of the year.
What might have been a months-long ordeal under other circumstances has instead unfolded as a model of compassion, efficiency, and collaboration. The best thing possible for these, and all pets who enter the shelter, is to move them through quickly. The Shelter is the best place we can make it, but it is no substitute for a forever home.
I wish to reiterate how amazing the staff at the Shelter have been in adapting their processes, pitching in, and plowing through these long days and nights in order to get us back to something more like normal in a hurry. Considering how much of our team is brand new, many of them having never had to deal with something like this before, it really is an extraordinary outcome. We couldn’t have done it without the kindness and generosity of this community and I am reminded once again of the endless ways in which we can better support each other in difficult times.
I can confidently say that the crisis created by this hoarding case has passed. There is still a lot of work to be done, and dozens of animals to find forever homes for, but those things will happen and happen quickly. Thank you again for all you have contributed to make this the best possible example of how to manage this sort of complex case. Now, let’s keep pushing through these next two weeks and do all we can to truly Empty the Shelter!