There was one major, looming question at the most recent Alachua County commission meeting: How will county officials handle the mass overcrowding of the local animal shelter?
The Alachua County Animal Resources and Care Center (ACR&C), located at 3400 Northeast 3rd Ave., reported last week being 50% over its capacity limit due to a recent influx of cats and dogs.
Officials at the meeting said they will hope to increase the number of staff and volunteers, create a new website and possibly build a new shelter to alleviate the issue.
“A couple of weeks ago, we were in a dire situation (and) still not back to capacity yet,” said Carl Smart, deputy manager for Alachua County.
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As of Tuesday, there were 110 dogs in the shelter with 21 dogs in overflow crates.
That’s better than it was.
Last week, 50 canines were placed in overflow crates. That’s on top of the 70 others in kennels.
Since May, the animal shelter has taken in 251 new animals, Smart told county commissioners Wednesday. A few of those animals were adopted out, transferred or returned to the owner, and in, some cases, euthanized.
In the short term, one fix is to increase the number of workers.
“We need more availability of staff to be able to do all these things and there are a lot of things that we want to do that we can’t do right now,” said Nikki Healy, interim director of the shelter.
County Manager Michele Lieberman said the county has been doing all it can get positions filled.
“There are some positions that have been posted multiple times that we have simply not received qualified applicants for,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman said the county has also been trying to increase the number of volunteers, even offering them pay.
“We’ve got the shelter now working to do volunteer training on a weekly basis so that when people walk into the shelter we can get them trained within that week and get them started immediately next week,” Lieberman said.
Other solutions proposed were to freely roam with each other more instead of caging them. A new website, officials hope, would ease the adoption process.
There were also talks of building another larger shelter. The existing one was built in 1987 and is approximately 25,000 square feet and is located on 13 acres of land.
“It was built at a time when the policy was euthanasia,” Lieberman said. “It was never built to house an animal more than a week. (The animals) weren’t there for more than a week. It is not built to contain the disease and that’s the sad reality.”
That process would take years to complete though.
Commissioners said they hope to hear an update within 60 days to hear how the issues are being addressed.
Currently, the county has waived all adoption fees until further notice. Residents looking to adopt pets can find adoptable pets on the Alachua County Animal Resources and Care website.
Those looking to volunteer can fill out the registration form online. Once the form is submitted, potential volunteers will be mandatory sent a Zoom link to the orientation.