Humane society struggles with animal overcrowding
K.T., a stray dog who looks like a miniature Boxer, was found hiding under a family’s deck in a Tahoe Donner neighborhood, starving, skittish and scared.
The family fostered and fed K.T. for about a week, and K.T. is now living with Georgia Smith, a Humane Society of Truckee board member and volunteer, her husband and their three dogs.
The first thing you notice about K.T. are her ribs – her skeleton seems almost transparent. When Smith first took K.T. in, the dog weighed under 20 pounds She now weighs 25 pounds.
“We don’t know how old she is or what breed she is, she was a stray,” Smith said. “It’s hard to tell, she’s just so thin. It’s a possibility she might have been dumped off. But who knows, these dogs all have different stories.”
When K.T. was found, she had been spayed, so she was someone’s pet at one time. But no one claimed her after she was found. Humane Society staff estimates she was probably stray for five months, because of her long nails and scared, aloof behavior.
Smith and Laurie Brewer, vice president of the Humane Society of Truckee who is in charge of adoptions, bring dogs and cats into their homes on a regular basis while training and waiting for the animals to be adopted.
“We work really hard to make these pets adoptable,” Brewer said. “Our houses suffer sometimes because of it.”
Smith replaced her wall-to-wall carpet with hard-wood floors to make cleaning up after animals less of a chore.
“We spend time with the animals, and it takes a lot of work,” Smith said, explaining they work with the animals on housebreaking, manners and socialization. “They’re very fearful at first.”
The Humane Society of Truckee currently has so many cats and dogs up for adoption that there is nowhere to keep them. They rely on pet fosters, families or individuals that will take an animal into their homes while waiting for them to be adopted, to house the animals when space at Animal Control and Sierra Pet Clinic is full. Recently, the Humane Society has had to put animals down that weren’t being adopted.
“So far, we have only put down feral cats and dogs that have had a history of biting. We’ve been very fortunate but it’s getting tougher and tougher.” Brewer said. “We don’t have a facility, so every animal goes to Animal Control. They will keep them for so long, then it’s our responsibility to find them a home. It’s the constant game of moving animals to keep them alive.”
The Humane Society of Truckee saw a 33 percent increase in adoptions from 1998 to 1999. The organization adopted out 242 dogs and cats in 1999.
But the numbers of homeless pets are increasing at a rapid rate, said Brewer, and the Humane Society has between 25 and 30 pets in its care at any given time. And now, with 18 homeless dogs and 12 homeless cats, it is simply out of space.
“Every spring and fall we have a big influx of pets,” Brewer said. “It’s obviously overwhelming. The need for someone to foster these animals is the most important thing right now.”
Brewer said they are so desperate right now, they have fosters as far as Carson City.
Most of the animals the Humane Society takes in are strays, former pets, or offspring of pets that are abandoned because no one wants them anymore.
“People leave and they drop off their animals, or they get tired of them because they’re older; they’re grown up and they’re not cute puppies anymore,” Smith said.
Brewer added people abandoning their animals seems a frequent activity in the Truckee area.
“That’s a big thing around here,” she said. “People just take their dogs and abandon them in the woods and we get these poor starving dogs.”
Fostering an animal involves no commitment to adopt, and the Humane Society provides food and care/medical instructions. The only commitment is to give the animal a temporary home for as long as you are able, and of course to give the animal love. People are asked to work with their foster dogs as they would their own.
The Humane Society of Truckee is currently working on raising funds to purchase acreage to build its own facility.
“The goal is to get a facility along with Animal Control so that we would be blending the two and we would be able to work together in keeping and caring for the animals and ultimately, keeping them alive.”
Other programs in the works include the Community Spay/Neuter Program, with the help of a generous grant from the Truckee-Tahoe Community Foundation, which is designed to encourage residents to surgically alter their pets by providing them a partial subsidy. This program will be kicked off in the next couple of weeks, Smith said.
“As the people population in Truckee is growing, so is the animal population,” Brewer said.
Both Brewer and Smith are hopeful that the next Pet Adoption Day will be successful and many of their animals will find nice homes or foster homes. A Pet Adoption Day is scheduled for this Saturday, May 6, in the parking lot of Safeway in Truckee from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For information, call the Humane Society of Truckee at 587-5948.
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