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By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The amount of stray and owner-relinquished cats and dogs lately has certainly impacted the Animal Welfare Friends (AWF) Shelter.

   “Every shelter is feeling it,” said AWF Manager Kate Williams. “Our funds are down and in-takes are up.”

   For these reasons, AWF is at capacity with both dogs and cats.

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   “The amount of people trying to get rid of their pets is up,” continued Williams.

   She might receive five calls a day from owners looking for a shelter or from people reporting strays.

   As for reasons why… Williams said in 2020, many people adopted a cat or dog to keep them company during the height of COVID when so many were living life in isolation. Now, two years later, people are returning to work, returning to a normal lifestyle, and no longer have time for a pet.

   Williams explained that dogs, much like humans, were isolated from other people and dogs during the pandemic. As owners relinquish their dogs now, it’s tough for shelters to try to socialize the dogs with others. Williams said these dogs can appear to have a disposition.

   “They’re not bad dogs; they didn’t get to socialize with other animals.”

   It’s also the economy.

   “It’d be nice to have a food bank for pet owners,” suggested Williams, a place where owners could receive assistance in feeding their pet.

   While AWF contracts with the Jones County Sheriff’s to take in stray dogs, they do not take in stray cats.

   “If we did, we’d never be empty,” Williams said of the number of stray cats out there.

   “If a cat is feral (wild), we can’t take them,” Williams said. “And if you feed a stray cat, according to the state, it’s yours.”

   Sometimes AWF receives calls from people who find stray cats, and note that they’re been feeding it. They inquire about bringing it to the shelter. At that point, AWF can’t assist.

   In relation to the economy, some might not be able to afford to adopt right now, so AWF doesn’t see as much interest.

   “Our adoptions are down,” noted Williams. “People are still showing interest through applications, but they’re not following through.”

   Despite the contract for stray dogs with the county, Williams said stray dogs do not take precedence over relinquished ones.

   “We do keep a kennel open for Sheriff strays,” she said.

   AWF can hold a stray dog for up to seven days and stray cats for three days, giving the owner time to reclaim. After that, the dog/cat is put up for adoption.

   “It’s very rare someone comes back to claim a cat,” Williams said.

   Due to so many factors right now, AWF now has a waiting list for owners wanting to find a safe place to relinquish their pet. The list is so long, Williams said they’re a month out before possibly taking in any more cats or dogs.

   “We can’t guarantee a time.”

   Williams does keep a list of back-up shelters she can offer owners as a plan B.

   “But we just encourage them to keep their pet,” she said, “and seek out help with training your pet.”

   All of this has led to the need for more foster homes to assist the shelter, and strains on their budget.

   “We don’t have enough volunteers and fosters.”

   Foster homes come in handy for those dogs/cats who might require individual or special attention.

   AWF’s budget is also stretched thin.

   “We completely rely on donations,” urged Williams.

   The shelter pays to spay and neuter all in-coming animals. They also cover the cost to microchip the animals and test them for diseases.

   “The adoption fee doesn’t even cover our veterinarian costs.”

   To assist AWF with any donations or to adopt, visit their website: animalwelfarefriends.org.

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