HORN LAKE, Miss — The pandemic economy burdens are now trickling down to pets. Pet adoptions were popular at the start of the pandemic. In fact, animal shelters emptied as more people staying home wanted a new companion.
But now that people are returning to their normal lives, there is an influx in evictions after the eviction moratorium was lifted and pet owners are dying from COVID-19. The Horn Lake Animal Shelter is seeing a lot of those animals being returned or dumped in the city with larger dogs being the main concern.
Julia Sparacello, the animal control officer at the Horn Lake Animal Shelter, has worked there for two years and said this is the worst she's ever seen it. She said the shelter is faced with some tough decisions right now.
Horn Lake Animal Shelter has a no-kill reputation because they haven't put an animal down for capacity issues in almost three years, but that streak may break soon because they just don't have enough space. Julia said the shelter was built to hold 40 dogs, but they recently have been averaging 80 dogs a day.
Sparcello said dogs are piled up in kennels, housing in the office, the restrooms, and 26 dogs have to sleep outside. This is a complete 180 from what the shelter experienced at the beginning of the pandemic.
"We are seeing one go out and three more come back in literally," she said. "We have dogs in play yards, we have dogs across the street, we have dogs in the office we have a dog in the bathroom right now,"
Sparcello said the shelter is completely filled so now they have to turn down the owner's surrenders. Because of that decision, Sparcello said people are dumping their dogs at the shelter after hours one to two times a week. Now, the shelter will have to get a list together to see which dogs they are going to put down to make more room.
"We are going to have to start making decisions on, you know, this dog takes too long to warm up to new people, or this dog is more animal selective or doesn't get along with certain animals," Sparcello said. "I mean we believe all of them have a home out there, it's just about finding the right place but with the number we have, there's no time to wait."
There are about 90 other dog rescue centers in the Mid-South but Sparcello said they are all facing the same problems. If you would like to help keep these animals from being euthanized so they can find their forever home, you can apply to foster a dog. Click here to learn more.