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Near-capacity shelters ask for community’s help

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The kennels at the Washoe County Regional Animal Services on Tuesday morning reached their capacity and officials say they need the help of residents to reduce the crowding. 

As of Thursday evening the pressure had eased a bit. The shelter was down to 90 dogs on site in 89 kennels. There are about 110 dog kennels at animal services. However, officials at WCRAS said more dogs are expected to come in over the weekend, when transfers to adoption centers go down and intakes go up. 

WCRAS hasn’t had to euthanize any animals due to lack of space since 2008, and Quinn Sweet, a program coordinator for WCRAS, said they are trying to do everything they can to avoid having to resort to that option. 

“As a facility, we have an obligation to accept stray pets and hold them for a mandatory five-day period,” Sweet said. “However, since we are unable to provide adoption services ourselves, we rely on reunifications and adoption partners to make room for incoming pets.”

WCRAS has a contract with Nevada Humane Society (NHS) to handle fostering and adoption of eligible animals. The organizations’ facilities are adjoined, however NHS is a separate non-profit organization.

Sweet said there’s been “a significant decline in transfers to our rescue partners,” many of whom are also operating at or near capacity. 

“This puts us in a difficult position because we must accept stray animals and those removed from neglectful situations. However, since our adoption partners are also facing space constraints, we are unable to transfer as many dogs to them as we have in the past,” Sweet said. “We collaborate with over 25 local and national rescue agencies, but they have expressed the same message: ‘we don’t have space.’”

Sweet added that WCRAS has exhausted every possible option to create space for the dogs coming through their doors, including doubling up compatible small dogs in kennels, requesting the public to create online found reports and hold found pets for 48 hours before bringing them in, and encouraging the use of resources like the public microchip scanning stations to reunite pets with their families.

Other local agencies – including SPCA of Northern Nevada – have reported similar overcrowding issues for a while now and have tried getting the public to adopt more animals in recent months. 

Emily Lee, communications manager for the SPCA of Northern Nevada, attributed part of the problem to the decline in free spay and neuter services in the community and challenges at NHS. 

“Nevada Humane Society hasn’t had a spay/neuter program in 3-4 years and the SPCA-NN affordable spay/neuter clinic can’t keep up with demand, even though we are operating three days per week,” Lee said. “NHS is a large, open-admission shelter and its failures have added to the overcrowding at WCRAS. And while SPCA-NN and others are doing our best, we are too small to keep up.” 

Nevada Humane Society did not respond to a request for comment.

Sweet said WCRAS has seen an uptick in abandoned animals coming into the facility. She also said the decline in spay and neuter services has likely resulted in an increase in unwanted puppies and kittens. She also pointed to the cost of veterinary care and increasing rents for pet-friendly housing as possible reasons people are abandoning their pets.

Record adoptions during the pandemic were also recorded, Sweet added, but now that people are returning to working in offices or to working full time they may not have the time to dedicate to their pet that they once did. 

According to Sweet, there are a few kennels at WCRAS that they have available for emergency situations but they are still expecting more pets in the coming days. WCRAS staff is asking the community for direct support by doing the following three things:

  1. Picking up their found pets from the shelter as soon as possible. Delaying the pickup unnecessarily occupies a kennel that could be used by another pet in need.
  2. Using HelpingPetsHome.com to find one of the eight public microchip scanning stations. This can help reunite lost pets with their families before bringing them to the shelter.
  3. If you have found a pet, create an online found report with WCRAS and,, if feasible, hold the pet for up to 48 hours while searching for the owner. This allows shelter staff to focus on pets that truly require immediate sheltering.

Adoption or fostering of animals from area adoption partners, including SPCA of Northern Nevada or NHS, help as well.

Mark Hernandez
Mark Hernandez
Mark was born in Mexico, grew up in Carson City, and has recently returned to Reno to continue to explore and get to know the city again. He got his journalism degree in 2018 and wants to continue learning photography for both business and pleasure. Languages and history are topics he likes to discuss as well as deplete any coffee reservoirs in close proximity.

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