Crisis-level overcrowding forced the Alachua County Animal Resources and Care shelter to cease taking both owner surrenders and healthy, free-roaming animal take-ins indefinitely.
According to an Alachua County release sent late Wednesday, the temporary closure will be in place until the animal population can realign with the shelter’s capacity for care. The shutdown will allow the limited staff to work with the current animals in care at the shelter and assess their behavior to match with potential adopters, along with focusing on foster care and working with rescue partners to assist in transfers.
“I am ordering this shutdown for the sake of the animals and our staff,” Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman said in a statement. “We are seeing nationwide staffing shortages, and unfortunately, Alachua County is not immune. Working at the animal shelter, particularly when severely overcrowded, is physically and emotionally exhausting for existing staff doing their best to take care of the animals.”
The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners focused on the animal overcrowding and staffing problems during a special meeting on Tuesday. Things came to a head even after the shelter announced in early June that it would waive adoption fees.
“I fully support the Manager’s decision. The number of animals at the shelter exceeds the staff’s capacity to provide humane care,” said Alachua County Commission Chair Marihelen Wheeler in the release. “The overcrowding crisis must be addressed for the welfare of the animals and the health of our dedicated staff.”
The shelter will remain open to the public for adoptions and reclaims and the Animal Resource Officers will continue to respond to calls from the community concerning public safety, according to the release. But residents should call 911 in the event of an emergency. The shelter’s staff will also be available to assist animals brought in by bystanders, not owners, that need immediate veterinary treatment.
“I support this action,” Dr. Cynda Crawford, director of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, said in the release. “Shelters nationwide are challenged by too many animals, understaffing, and inadequate space. For many shelters, we have utilized this temporary emergency shutdown strategy to focus shelter resources on community placements of the animals in their care. This strategy has successfully returned shelters to a more balanced state resulting in good animal care and staff welfare.”
The shelter instructs that if you find a free-roaming pet and choose to get involved, attempt to locate the owner. The following are tips for reuniting pets with their owners:
- Think lost, not stray. Many animals never return home because the finder assumes the animal has been abandoned or dumped when the animal has just accidentally gotten out.
- Their owner may be frantically looking for their pet but doesn’t know the best way to go about it. Pets that have been out for even a short time may start to look neglected and may appear frightened or skittish, giving the impression that they were abused or abandoned.
- Secure the pet, look for any injuries, and provide water. Note the exact location you found the pet. If possible, walk the pet around the neighborhood, asking others if they recognize it.
- Check for an identifying rabies tag or name tag. Call and text the owners OR call AR&C with the rabies tag number.
- Check for a microchip at any vet clinic.
- Take a photo of the pet in good lighting. Get a front-on nose shot that shows the pet’s face and complete a “Found Pet” form by clicking here.
- After filling out the “Found Pet” form, please also post the found pet on your neighborhood and local lost and found social media pages.
- Gainesville Pet Finder is one of Alachua County’s main Lost and Found Facebook groups along with Nextdoor, where you can post specific to your neighborhood.
- Do not mention gender or collar details. Remember, the goal is to locate the owner, not re-home the pet immediately. If you are contacted by another person directly claiming to be the owner, ask for proof of ownership before returning the pet. If you aren’t sure what to do, contact AR&C for assistance.
- Post signs in the neighborhood. Include a photo and your contact info.