Animal shelter’s capacity tested with intake numbers on the rise

Published 3:22 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2023

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By Ellen Brabo, For the Washington Daily News

In Beaufort County, the local animal shelter is grappling with an increasing surge in animal intakes, creating a situation that is both heartwarming and heart-wrenching. Melanie Sawyer, the dedicated Animal Services Manager at the Beaufort County Animal Shelter (BCAS), recently shed light on the challenges the shelter is facing and the efforts they are making to find loving homes for their furry residents.

Currently, the shelter is facing an uphill battle as the number of animals coming through its doors continues to rise. One prominent trend is the uptick in owner surrenders, with a staggering 655 cases reported this year alone.

The shelter’s capacity is being put to the test, as it experiences a higher influx of dogs compared to the past. This has led to a challenging cycle where pet owners are releasing their dogs due to the shelter’s full capacity, ultimately contributing to an increase in strays on the streets. However, the shelter’s ability to address this problem by picking up strays is hindered by its own capacity limitations.

The facility itself houses 20 dog runs and 17 cat cages. While dogs of breeding ages are kept separate, puppies are allowed to share their living space. Similar practices are applied to litters of cats, who are kept together to ensure their comfort and well-being.

Currently, the shelter’s roster is dominated by medium and large dog breeds, along with a group of 11 puppies. While cats and kittens are finding homes relatively swiftly, there has been a surprising lag in the adoption of puppies, including the current batch that has remained in the shelter for over a week.

Regrettably, not all stories have a happy ending. The shelter has faced the difficult decision to euthanize animals, a task that weighs heavily on both the staff and the Animal Services Manager. This year alone, 259 animals have been euthanized due to capacity constraints. While the shelter attempts to avoid imposing strict time limits, the stark reality of their situation forces them to make heart-wrenching choices on a regular basis.

“We are getting so many dogs and so many calls, so we are having to make tough decisions every day,” shared Sawyer. Sawyer emphasized that spaying and neutering is a critical solution to alleviate this burden.

The unique role of the BCAS, which encompasses the entire process from animal pickup to housing, only intensifies the staff’s attachment to these animals. The emotional toll on the shelter’s personnel is undeniable. The staff strives to delay such decisions as long as possible, driven by the knowledge that these animals deserve a chance at a loving home.

“The hardest thing in the world to do is fall in love with an animal and have to euthanize it,” Sawyer stated. “It’s sad and it’s trying on the staff. It’s not something we look forward to doing.”

Adoption rates are an essential aspect of the shelter’s mission, and they offer reasonable fees to encourage prospective pet owners. The cost to adopt an adult dog is $85, while puppies under four months are priced at $75. For feline enthusiasts, the adoption fee for cats is $65, and kittens can be adopted for $55. These adoption costs encompass a comprehensive range of services, including spaying or neutering, microchipping, initial vaccinations, flea medication, and rabies shots for animals over four months.

The shelter’s doors are open to the public from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and they offer appointments on Saturdays. For those interested in supporting the shelter’s cause, they offer assistance in spaying and neutering animals, a vital step in controlling the pet population. Additionally, those looking to make a difference through fostering are encouraged to reach out to local rescue organizations.

The most up-to-date information regarding available pets can be found on the Beaufort County Animal Services Facebook page or by visiting