/Shelby Humane faces overcrowding 
Dog at Shelby Humane's shelter. Photo by M.K. Bryant, News editor.

Shelby Humane faces overcrowding 

By M.K. Bryant, News editor 

As owner surrenders of pets surge, local animal shelter, Shelby County Humane Society, has been left overcrowded and under-resourced.  

Shelby County Humane Society is located in Columbiana, just 25 minutes away from the University of Montevallo.  

Interim executive director Saundra Ivy explained that capacity has always been a struggle for the shelter. In recent years, however, an increase in owner surrenders has made this issue more prominent.  

“Owner surrenders, which are part of that problem, were three times higher in 2023 than they were in 2022. Three times higher. That’s a lot. And if you can’t transport a dog out somewhere, if transports were full, then you’re sitting here with a swelling number on your hands,” Ivy said. 

Owner surrenders also have a negative impact on the animals being surrendered.  

“They do grieve. Now, you can get them past the grief. It takes about three to six months to get them to stabilize, if they’re in a home situation. I don’t think that anybody even thinks about, if they drop a dog off, how much it costs to actually care for that dog. And, if it’s sick, what does it cost in vet bills? Because we spend a lot of money on veterinary costs,” Ivy said. 

Due to overcrowding, Shelby Humane had to reconsider their no-kill policy in 2023.  

In order to tackle this issue, and get more animals fostered and adopted, the organization has turned to various social media campaigns and adoption events in order to raise awareness. Ivy explained that the organization is extremely active on Facebook and Instagram, and they are starting to use TikTok as well.  

The “Priority” and “All Star” lists on the shelter’s website are another method of getting more animals adopted.  

According to Shelby Humane’s website, “The Priority List are those Adult Dogs that we have concern about based on their length of stay, ​behavior or medical issues, or general lack of interest from the public.” 

The website describes the “All Star” list as “Adult Dogs that we believe would fit into a wide range of families.” 

“If we can get any of those out, it frees up space, which means we don’t have to do anything to make space except get the dogs out, which is our whole goal, and it seems to be working,” Ivy said. 

The end goal for the animals at Shelby Humane is adoption. But, for many people who want to help, adoption isn’t a possibility. However, Shelby Humane offers plenty of volunteer opportunities for people who want to find a way to help.  

“We have Weekend Warriors, when you might take an animal home for the weekend or a day, and we have Hiking Buddies, which is usually when you take one out for a day. You can go out for a couple hours. It gets the dog out and exposes it to people and being on a leash,” Ivy said.  

According to Shelby Humane’s website, “Every shelter dog could benefit from less time in the shelter and more time being stimulated to reduce kennel stress. The longer dogs are in the shelter environment, the more prone they are to develop mental, physical, and behavioral issues.” 

Programs like Weekend Warriors and Hiking Buddies, as well as the shelter’s foster program, are intended to reduce kennel stress in the animals that are staying at the shelter.  

Foster coordinator Karli Brasher elaborated on this. 

“Adult dogs can start to go kennel crazy a little bit. They can get tired of being in the kennel, seeing the same old same old,” Brasher explained. 

With changes in the economy, there has been a decrease in people willing to take animals into their homes.  

“But the cool thing about the fostering program is that we provide everything. So that sort of takes away the cost. It’s like having a dog without the medical and everyday expenses of having a dog,” Brasher said.  

Burgundy Robertson, Shelby Humane’s intake manager, explained the intersections and workflow of the shelter– from animal intake to eventual adoption. 

“It starts with us. We get the animal first, and everyone relies on us to tell them how the animal is. We don’t know if this dog is gonna bite, we don’t know how it’s gonna react, so it’s really important for us to pay attention to that and be able to pass that along. After that, some animals may go to medical if there’s a medical issue, and then to the kennel,” Robertson said.  

Communication is vital between each department of the shelter.  

“We really try to look at the good that we’re doing, and the good situations, and the fact that we’re helping people, or we’re helping this animal. We’re helping this situation the best that we can,” Robertson said. 

A passion for helping animals is what ties the staff of the shelter together. 

“I got involved just because I wanted to do some volunteer work because I had retired. Never did I believe that I would get this involved with it. But, do I regret it? No, because I think it’s something bigger than yourself. These people come together like family because they all have that common need,” Ivy said.  

A common consensus among employees at Shelby Humane was the importance of spaying and neutering animals.  

“If you’ve got an animal, spay or neuter it,” Ivy said. “The only way to stop this tide of so many animals is to get your animals fixed. And, if you’re not going to have an animal, encourage others to get theirs fixed. Because that’s the only thing that’s going to stop this.”  

One solution that Shelby Humane offers for this problem is the Shelby Spay and Neuter Clinic.  

Many people avoid getting their pets spayed or neutered because of the cost. 

According to Shelby Humane’s website, “It is the mission of Shelby Spay Neuter to provide low-cost options to pet owners in Central Alabama.”  

There are plenty of ways for community members to aid the shelter, from walking dogs and petting kittens, to taking animals into their homes to foster. 

“The issue is we’ve got too many animals, and we’d like people to take responsibility for those animals. And, a lot of the time, stray animals make some of the best pets,” Ivy said.  

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M.K. Bryant is a contributing journalist for The Alabamian. She’s majoring in mass communication with a concentration in multimedia journalism, and she’s double-minoring in theatre and creative writing. When she’s not busy watering her plants or writing, M.K. can probably be found wandering around an art museum or a library.