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CMPD's animal services is full, but the urgency for help is different this time

Animal control is calling for the public's help as rising pet intake, staffing shortages and population growth in Charlotte put the shelter in "crisis" mode.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Melissa Knicely's eyes tear up as she reflects on the recent weeks at CMPD Animal Care and Control.

"The reason that we're here is because we care about the animals," Knicely, the agency's communications manager, said. "Our staff has had to do a lot of really hard things in the last two weeks."

Some of those hard things include euthanizing dozens of cats, as a highly-contagious feline virus spreads amid overcrowding, and putting down dogs that, under less cramped circumstances, might have had a better shot of staying until the right family comes along. 

Now, staff must be more discerning when new dogs arrive at the shelter.

"If we have a dog in here, and he's been here with us for three months, and he's a single dog only, but we have other dogs coming in, that are friendly with dogs, and could be adopted in a day or two, and there's only one kennel, and that dog's in it, what do you do?" Knicely said. "We look over the behavior notes, we look over the medical notes, and someone here in our organization has to make that very, very tough decision."

After the COVID-19 lockdown drove intake numbers down and more families to adopt new pets, the center is now facing a perfect storm of straining factors: a rising human population, also bringing new pets to the area, the highest intake numbers in years, and staffing shortages.

Knicely also said there are dozens of dogs on hold for court cases or quarantines, taking up room that could be used for other intakes. 

However, the problem isn't just about space; the agency's resources, including staff, are stretched thin.

"Even if we were staffed at 100%, for the number of animals we currently caring for, we would need 13 employees, working eight hours a day to handle just the cleaning and feeding,” Dr. Julie Hollifield, a veterinarian with CMPD Animal Care and Control, said.

The agency is now putting out a "crisis" call to the community to help.

While a permanent clearing of kennel space through adoption is the ultimate goal, Knicely said seemingly smaller gestures like fostering, giving pets staycations and breaks from the kennel for just one day can help.

Volunteers are also much needed to help with shelter tasks like laundry, cleaning dog bowls and kennels, and walking and socializing pets. Donations are also helpful right now.

"It's a really hard time," Knicely said. "Supporting the shelter and finding out what you can do... is what we need right now."

Contact Vanessa Ruffes at vruffes@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

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