CANTON, Ohio — In Stark County, several agencies are facing an animal overload problem. There are too many dogs and cats and too little space, leading to pleas to adopt pets this holiday season.
At both the Stark County Humane Society and the Stark County Dog Warden's Office, dogs come in a variety of sizes, colors and breeds, and all of them need a place to call home.
"When you adopt one animal, you're actually helping two. You're taking one to a forever home and providing space for another animal to come into the shelter," said Jackie Godbey, the executive director of the Stark County Humane Society.
Godbey said the agency is currently at capacity with 50 dogs and 150 cats. That means it can only take in other animals if they're neglected, abused, sick or injured strays.
"Normally, when we're not at capacity, we can take guardian surrenders. We can help the community with some stray animals," Godbey said.
According to Godbey, there are a couple of reasons for the high number of animals, not only at the Humane Society, but also with multiple rescue groups.
For starters, she said inflation is playing a role, leading to the rising cost of pet food.
"If you think of what you used to pay for a bag of cat food or dog food one year, two years ago compared to what they are today, it's expensive to have a pet today," she said.
Housing insecurity is another factor, with more people facing evictions and foreclosures.
"With the way the market and everything is going right now— and for many years people couldn't do the evictions and foreclosures— so we're seeing an increase with that," Godbey said.
Deputy Jon Barber with the Stark County Dog Warden's Office said some dogs in his kennels were abandoned by their owners.
"It seems like since COVID has passed and people are going back to work and lives have changed and more socialization, we're seeing this huge uptick in dogs," Barber said.
Barber said the facility is not quite at capacity, but the numbers have been high. A few weeks ago, there were more than 60 dogs. As of Friday, there were about 40 dogs at the office. Barber said he typically wants to see the number of dogs under 30.
"We were up to 60 plus dogs for a period of time. The numbers have started to come down now. The problem is though that we're not seeing adopters coming through the doors to adopt dogs at this point," Barber said.
To encourage more adoptions, the county launched a "12 Dogs of Christmas" campaign and reduced some of the adoption fees on a dozen dogs.
Godbey and Barber are continuing to pull on holiday heartstrings and urging citizens to make an effort to get more dogs and cats into new homes.
"We would encourage people if they're looking for a dog— if they're looking for a companion animal— to come visit us," Barber said.
"If you're considering a pet, check out your local shelters. Check out your local rescues," Godbey added.
The cost to adopt a dog at the Stark County Dog Warden's Office is $99. The price tag for dogs and cats at the Stark County Humane Society ranges from $60 to $100. Both agencies fully vet and microchip the animals as well as have them spayed or neutered.
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