Local animal shelters facing crowding issues

Euthanasia rates are at their highest levels in three years.

FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — Big Paws of the Ozarks, a foster-based Fayetteville dog rescue, has been inundated with intakes. According to an Instagram post, the rescue has been inundated with calls from people threatening to abandon or harm their dogs if Big Paws doesn’t take them in.

“Life in running a rescue is never boring,” said Kayla Mayes of Big Paws. “Being in the animal welfare business, we sometimes see the worst of humanity, we see cases of abuse and neglect, we see dogs and other animals treated in ways they should never be treated.”

The rescue currently does not have the space to continue taking in dogs, Mayes said. This comes as euthanasia rates reach their highest level in three years, according to Mayes.

“On average, we turn away at least 70 dogs each week,” Mayes said. “It’s just a stressful time. It’s tough and we wish we had the space to accommodate them all. But unfortunately, the reality is we don’t.”

The rescue has saved 220 dogs this year alone. This week they welcomed 15 puppies.

“Now we’re back to pre-coronavirus numbers and shelters are down, adoption rates are down as well. We’re seeing more people choosing to buy dogs from breeders,” Mayes said.

At Fayetteville Animal Services, they see similar problems. They have a lot of dogs that haven’t been adopted.

“We’re seeing a lot, especially dogs that are sitting a little longer in shelters,” said Justine Lentz, animal services supervisor at Fayetteville Animal Services. “They’re basically like small dogs, and I think it’s the bigger dogs that sit longer, because there’s more of them.”

When asked why shelters are so crowded, both Mayes and Lentz said it’s not just one reason.

“Maybe they’re not ready to add another one right now. Maybe it has to do with the economy,” Lentz said.

To help solve the problem, Mayes stresses the importance of spaying or neutering your pet.

“In Arkansas, there is a lack of spay and neuter laws and regulations [statewide] “It really helps maintain that unreasonable level of puppy litter,” Mayes said. “This sounds like fostering if you can, adopting if you can, and at least spaying and neutering your pets.”

They both encourage people to offer some compassion to our furry friends and those who help them.

“Animal welfare is in a crisis right now,” Mayes said. “We’re just trying to handle it as gently and compassionately as possible to help make sure we can get the dogs out of a bad situation.”

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