Extra resources for students of State and Local Government 180, an upper-division GE class in the Government Department at Sacramento State University
Friday, September 2, 2011
SF Chronicle: Poor economy fills San Francisco animal shelter
S.F. animal shelter full as economy goes to dogs
Vivian Ho, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco ChronicleSeptember 1, 2011 06:35 PM
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SAN FRANCISCO -- For San Francisco's animal shelter, the dog days of summer are far from over.
With hard-pressed pet owners surrendering their animals in booming numbers, the city's Animal Care and Control agency has issued an unprecedented order: Don't bring your dog here. The shelter is full.
"It's something we haven't really run across before," Kat Brown, the agency's deputy director, said Thursday.
"People have to make these hard decisions about giving up a dog because they're either out of work, have to move, or can no longer afford to keep their dog."
Dog drop-offs are way up at the shelter at 15th and Harrison streets. In the most recent fiscal year, 2,800 dogs passed through the shelter, an increase of 300 over the year before.
San Franciscans who want to surrender their dogs will have to wait until the shelter clears out some of the 95 canines already there. San Francisco Animal Care and Control even issued a plea this week for people who find stray dogs to care for the animals themselves until shelter space opens up.
The shelter was full of yips and barks Thursday, with dogs of all sizes and ages sticking their wet noses at visitors and pawing at their cages. Almost every cage was filled.
"This one," Brown said, gesturing at an empty cage. "Kennel cough."
It's not healthy for so many dogs to inhabit the same area, she said.
"If they don't have enough room, they will not thrive," Brown said.
The agency hung the "no vacancy" sign for dogs less than two weeks after opening its first adoption center for cats inside a private store in an effort to give away more felines.
The sour economy is hitting cats and dogs alike. The city shelter went through a two-week stretch in August in which it didn't find a home for a single adult cat - the first time that had ever happened.
Finding a new friend
Animal Care and Control has been reaching out to other shelters and rescue organizations for help with its capacity population of dogs, and is also cutting adoption fees in half until Sept. 12. Fees usually range from $135 to $175.
Shwanna Edwards, 23, and her mother, Norma Espy, 51, heard about the sale Thursday and headed straight for the shelter.
"We had just been saying we wanted a dog," Edwards said. "This was the best opportunity for us."
Edwards and Espy just moved to a new neighborhood in Richmond, and Espy was looking for company on her walks. They both took an immediate liking to 3-month-old Madeleine, a pit bull mix.
They talked excitedly about all the supplies they'd have to get for Madeleine, whom Edwards was already calling Maddie, as they made their way back to the lobby to fill out adoption forms.
In the "get-acquainted room," Madeleine crawled over Edwards and Espy, licking their faces as they laughed and petted her small brown-and-white figure. They said they planned on hugging her nonstop for at least a week.
Other dogs, like Puzzle, still need a home.
Puzzle, a 1-year-old pit bull mix with white and black patches and wary dark eyes, came to the shelter June 25 as an underweight stray. She's been at the shelter longer than most of the other dogs.
She doesn't bark or jump at visitors, but she wags her tail with her entire body when Brown enters her cage.
"She just needs a home now," Brown said.
The shelter gives away about 1,000 animals a year and keeps dogs that aren't adopted as long as possible. But the overcrowding is making it difficult.
"We think they're just really great dogs, and we try to keep them as long as we possibly can," Brown said.
"But the space crunch that we're having challenges us as to how many we can keep and how long we can keep them."