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Shelter sees increase in owner surrenders

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Animal Shelter has experienced a spike in animal surrenders over the past few weeks.

The shelter has nearly doubled its dog and cat residents after a sudden increase of owner surrenders occured over the past three weeks, Belmont County Dog Warden Lisa Williams said. In recent weeks, Williams said, around 30 cats and dogs were brought to the shelter — most of which were owner surrenders while some others were strays.

In late April the shelter had around 11 cats and 18 dogs. Those numbers have increased since then, with the shelter now housing a couple dozen cats and 36 dogs.

In addition to the shelter’s cats, the Belmont County Cat Stray Shun group has 25 kittens available through the shelter.

Williams said many of the local rescue organizations have joined together to help home some of the animals.

“Even with working with the rescues, we’ve still doubled what we had three weeks ago,” she said. “I’m just not sure why all of a sudden we’re getting so many. I don’t know if it’s because it’s been awhile since the pandemic started and people are strained.”

Williams suspects the main reason for the surrenders is financial constraints owners may incur when owning an animal.

“I think it’s just the economy; people can’t take care of them or they are moving. … Some people can’t afford to take them to the vet or buy food,” she said.

She said an animal becoming ill or having an injury can cause a financial hardship on the owner, which can lead them to surrender the animal. Shelter staff have seen a lot of injured and sick animals over the past year, and they can run up high veterinary bills, Williams said. There have been dogs and cats brought in with various illnesses, infections and injuries — including a dog who had two gunshot wounds. That dog has since recovered and has been adopted, she said.

Lyme disease has become prevalent among dogs surrendered or brought in to the shelter as strays. That condition requires medical treatment, she said.

“We get a few every week that test positive,” she said.

Williams said the shelter also has had quite a few elderly people surrender animals recently because they could no longer care for them due to their own health problems.

Although there have been a great deal of animal intakes over the past few weeks, Williams said the shelter has adopted out more animals than usual over the past year amid the pandemic. Those pets are not among the recent surrenders.

“We haven’t got any animals back due to people going back to work or anything, so that’s a plus,” she added.

With the uptick in animal surrenders, the shelter could use various items including Purina cat food, laundry detergent and bleach. Williams said it also has a “vet fund” that helps cover veterinary costs. Those wishing to donate can bring items to shelter or mail checks to 45244 National Road West, St. Clairsville.

Animals available for adoption can be found online on Pet Finder. Williams said other animal rescue organizations located in the area that may have animals listed on the website include The Road Home Animal Project, Belmont County Animal Rescue League, Belmont County Humane Society, and Belmont County Animal Sanctuary.

“We’re all just trying to help find animals homes, and that’s our goal is to get them all homes no matter who has them,” she said.

For more information on any animal at the shelter, call 740-695-4708.

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