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Some Baltimore-area animal shelters no longer taking owner surrenders, lower adoption fees as they reach or near capacity

Animal shelters in Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties are at or approaching their capacity, with some facilities reaching a point where they stopped accepting owner surrenders or have been forced to lower adoption fees.

The Baltimore County Animal Shelter, located on Manor Road in Baldwin, reached its maximum capacity after animal welfare responded to a complaint that resulted in the seizure of 48 dogs, said Elyn Jones, a public information officer for the health department.

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The dogs were brought to the main facility and at least one of the puppies was found to have distemper, a highly contagious virus that is deadly in unvaccinated dogs and puppies, she said.

“We had to quarantine or isolate the dogs already on site, so in making that room it made us have less space for taking in additional dogs,” Jones said. “We asking people who turn in dogs that might be lost to turn them into our Dundalk facility.”

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She also said the spay and neuter services will be suspended until further notice. The service was initially suspended temporarily in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re not doing any surgical procedures, or anything that will bring dogs into the facility,” she said.

Jones suggested the recent July 4 holiday as a factor in the regional capacity issue.

“The Fourth of July holiday is a very busy time for people bringing in strays that they find because of the fireworks,” she said. “Dogs just take off — it’s a very disconcerting and uncomfortable time for them with the noise.”

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The Human Society of Carrol County in Westminster is attempting to stay ahead of the incoming capacity issues according to Executive Director Karen Baker.

“We’re managing it,” she said. “We’re having several large adoption events over the next couple of weeks and we’re offering reduced adoption fees.”

Small animals and kittens will be available in a same-day adoption event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Sunday at the shelter, located at 2517 Littlestown Pike, she said.

Baker also mentioned a “very large” adoption program to place animals in foster homes who are not ready for adoption.

Last year’s shutdown of spay and neuter services created long-term capacity implications for shelters, she said.

“We’ve seen the backlash of that in cats this year,” she said. “The cats that weren’t spayed and neutered had kittens and their kittens were having kittens so that set us back a little bit.”

The Humane Society of Harford County in Fallston has also reached capacity and is offering $25 dog, cat and kitten adoptions during July.

Erin Long, the marketing coordinator for Harford shelter, called it an “amazing deal considering the animals have all been spayed/neutered, microchipped and given all their vaccinations.” Regular adoption fees are $35 to $250 for dogs, $95 for adult cats and $125 for kittens. Adoptions are by appointment only.

“If you’ve been thinking of adding a furry friend to your family, now is the time,” Executive Director Jen Swanson said in a statement.

All dog adoptions in Harford County will include a free Tito’s Handmade Vodka dog hoodie or sweater, while cat and kitten adoptions will include a free cat toy or treat bag. All adopters will also receive a free starter bag of Hill’s Science Diet dry food.

Long said shelters are usually overrun by kittens during this time of the year because birthrates are higher in the warmer months.

“We are deep in the midst of kitten season,” she said. “And because it’s warmer and there’s more daylight, people are outside more — this leads to more pets becoming lost and ending up in shelters.”

The Harford humane society has also seen a spike in surrenders due to the owner’s health problems or owners who have died and family members can’t or don’t want to take in their pets, Long said.

Swanson will lead a “lunch and learn” July 28 called “Providing for Your Pet’s Future” where she will discuss pet trusts and other things people can do to protect their pet in case of an emergency or if the owner is no longer able to care for them.

This year, the shelter has taken in 1,158 animals and since 2015, they have taken in between 3,000 and 3,500 animals, maintaining a live release rate of 90% or more, said Long.

“We are concerned that the end of the eviction moratorium will continue to drive our intake numbers up as well,” she said.

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