CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A sudden influx of dogs at the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association's shelter could lead to dogs being euthanized to free up space.
Over the past year, shelter officials and volunteers have greatly reduced the number of dogs put to death. Since the beginning of the year, shelter officials said they've only had to euthanize sick dogs for the most part.
But that progress could come screeching to a halt without an increase in adoptions and fosters.
As of Monday morning there were 136 dogs in the shelter. Every kennel - even those in the overflow areas - was full. Several cages housed more than one.
And the steady stream of incoming homeless canines wasn't expected to let up any time soon. With no vacancies, and some dogs having been housed at the shelter since early this year, few options remained.
Chelsea Staley, who co-founded rescue advocacy organization Dog Bless last year, began working at the shelter as a rescue coordinator and spokeswoman in May. Although summer is always a busy time for animal shelters, she said recent renovations to the facility were partly to blame for the sudden space crunch.
"I just don't think people understand how many we get in a single month," she said.
In early June, shelter officials acted on the advice of an outside expert and replaced all of the ceiling tiles in the dog kennel areas.
The old ceiling tiles were made of soft, porous material. But the kennels are a warm and humid place, and that made the tiles "a breeding ground for disease," Staley said.
During the renovations, the shelter continued to accept stray dogs picked up by humane officers. It's contractually obligated to always accept strays, Staley said.
But about 40 kennels had to be closed at a time while the work was carried out. So for about three weeks, owners who wanted to surrender unwanted dogs were turned away.
And when the shelter reopened at full capacity last week, the floodgates opened.
"We've been absolutely slammed," Staley said.
In the past month, the shelter has accepted 397 dogs.
"And (for three of the four weeks), that was just strays," Staley said. "Owner surrenders are typically about 48 percent of the dogs that come in."