Orange County Animal Services’ Facebook plea brings results. It’s still not enough

Shelter continues to take in more dogs than it can adopt out, staff says

Orange County Animal Services waived its adoption fees in an attempt to get animals into forever homes as it cares for over 300 animals.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Animal Services posted to its Facebook page Saturday, discussing the hundreds of animals stored at the shelter and asking local residents for support.

The desperate, passionate plea from Animal Services over the weekend was seen by 21,000 people by Monday morning, some of whom showed up at Animal Services to take home a dog.

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“We want our community to understand our situation,” the post read. “This isn’t about an agenda or about a crusade. This isn’t about people’s personal opinions on shelters, certain breeds, legislature, management, or policies. This is about our animals.”

Diane Summers, animal services manager, said it didn’t even put a dent in the problem.

“From the moment we started sharing just how full we are, Saturday and Sunday were packed in our lobby with people coming in to adopt,” Summers said. “But unfortunately, we still saw so many animals coming in that the number of people coming in didn’t outpace the animals coming in. To a certain extent, I think we’re spinning our wheels.”

The shelter has been forced to house two to three dogs in a single kennel.

“And every day brings 20-25 more animals; as surrenders, strays, abandonments, cruelties. We are doing everything we can, but we cannot do this alone,” the shelter wrote.

As of Monday morning, 209 dogs were housed at Animal Services. Usually, capacity is about 175 dogs.

“Anytime you do that, you have a risk for potential kennel fights or spread for disease,” Summers said. “That’s why we’re really trying to promote how full we are in an effort to get these animals out of here and not face the risk of overcrowding.”

Summers said the shelter is facing an unprecedented situation; the only other shelter in Orange County, the Pet Alliance, shut down last year after a fire; the economy, inflation in particular, is making it difficult for some people to afford their pets; and some breeders shouldn’t be breeding.

“To a large extent, it’s irresponsible breeding,” Summers said. “What that means is people breeding dogs without solid plans for where they’re going, breathing high volumes of litters and unfortunately, a lot of bully breeds, which means it can be difficult to find housing because of housing restrictions. We need our people to make better choices when it comes to breeding animals. Unfortunately, those dogs have a really hard time because a lot of people have either apartment restrictions or HOA restrictions, and so they are a breed that is predominantly prohibited from a lot of housing types.”

Summers said that’s about half the problem. Many of the dogs in the shelter right now are pit bulls or pit bull mixes.

Orange County Animal Services is an “open-admission” shelter, which means no dogs are turned away, but some are euthanized because of sickness or behavior issues.

“This is us really laying it out there, being as honest as we can, saying we need help,” Summers said. “This is a community issue, and we can’t ignore this. We just really need help right now.”

Summers pleaded with people to seek alternatives before bringing pets to Animal Services. She said to check with neighbors, friends or family before giving up dogs to the shelter because it could cost the dog its life. Animal Services should be a last resort.

Orange County is currently waiving all fees for adoptable dogs.

“It’s up to our community now. To step in, step up, and lend a hand. This is about our animals,” the shelter said.

For more information on Orange County Animal Services, click here.

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About the Authors:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.