FARGO – Close your collection of tea cups and get out of your La-Z-Boy, folks.
Ninja is in the house.
He’s got 60 pounds of bulldozer and crowd personality, all wrapped up in a muscular pit lab body finished with a nice lumpy head on one end and a whiplash tail that could hit Sheetrock on the other.
He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere – charming for a minute the women who work the front desk at Homeward Animal Shelter, sniffing his impressive schnozzle along the shelves for hidden treats.
He will remain seated if directed, but only for a while until he finds something more interesting to do. Part jubilant toddler, part budding wingman, he loves dogs and people of all sizes. He’s the kind of exuberant, big-hearted mutt who needs someone strong, active, and good-natured enough to appreciate his goofy charm.
Sadly, Ninja has spent the last 100 days at Homeward, where he has been repeatedly ignored by people looking for smaller, fluffier, low shedding dogs.
And he is far from alone. Another dog, Chiko, has been here even longer. And Sissy, a bright red pit bull mix with a sweet temper, has been around for 115 days.
In fact, the Homeward Animal Shelter is so full that unused offices and hallways have been converted into a temporary dog ââand cat kennel, says Heather Clyde, Homeward’s director of operations.
At the same time last year, the shelter had 96 animals either in foster homes or at the shelter. This year, that number jumped to 174.
âThe past six months have been tough. It’s not just that the pounds have more animals, but the animals aren’t adopted as quickly,â says Clyde, sitting in the office she shares with the kennel for. a sweet ginger lab mix. , Ellie Mae.
Ellie Mae already has an adoptive family who want her, but she has been exceptionally lucky. Homeward and Fargo Animal Pound are so maxed out that Clyde fears he may eventually have to consider euthanasia.
That would be tragic, Clyde says, as the Fargo pound and local rescues have worked to dramatically reduce euthanasia over the past 15 years.
So much so that no adoptable dog has been euthanized at local pounds since 2009 and no adoptable cat has been slaughtered since 2012, Clyde says.
When Clyde started working with Homeward in 2007, the Pound euthanized 120 dogs and 775 cats that year. In the past year, only 10 dogs and 35 cats had to be euthanized – and that was only due to serious aggression issues or massive injuries.
The reduction is the result of an increase in the number of local rescues as well as a great collaboration between the rescues and the town pound, Clyde says.
So what is causing the sudden increase in the number of homeless animals?
More recently, the North Dakotas – like the rest of the United States – have enthusiastically plunged into a “puppy demise” as housebound workers began adopting and purchasing cats and dogs in record numbers like furry office mates.
Meanwhile, Homeward, like many rescues, could barely meet demand.
But, as more telecommuters were called back to the office, some of these pandemic puppies struggled to transition from a 24/7 family to an absent family eight hours a day.
âYou can tell which ones have been pandemic puppies because these are the dogs that have a lot of anxiety,â Clyde explains. “And then their separation anxiety becomes destructive, so we see a lot of dogs around a year old or a year and a half old that have behavioral issues.”
The pandemic has also contributed to the increase in the homeless pet population in other ways. Some families weren’t able to get their pets to the vet for treatment, so they found themselves swarming with kittens or puppies.
And in some cases, COVID has triggered a change in employment, housing or financial health, which has made it more difficult for people to keep their pets.
People are also slower to adopt certain breeds – including lab mixes, pit bull mixes, shepherd breeds and huskies, she says. This is in part because of unfair assumptions about these breeds, but also because some of these breeds may need more exercise or a more experienced owner.
Recently, Clyde posted an appeal on the shelter’s Facebook page asking more foster families and adopters to come forward.
The response has been phenomenal, resulting in over 1,700 actions. Since then, many more families have applied to become foster families and several people have expressed an interest in adopting.
Several boarding schools have also offered to accommodate dogs.
Clyde says the Fargo Pound is also working with Homeward to keep the animals longer until more space can be found.
âThey work with us because they also don’t want the animals to be euthanized because of the lack of space. But if we are desperate and can’t find something, what do you do? must give in. ”
Interested in fostering, adopting or donating? Email [email protected] or call 701-239-0077.