Understaffing and overcrowding drove Alachua County to halt intake at Animal Resources and Care Wednesday evening.
The county-run shelter implemented a temporary closure until the pet population aligns with the facility’s appropriate capacity, according to a county press release.
The shelter will remain open for adoptions and reclaims, and animal control officers will continue to respond to calls from the community concerning public safety, according to the release. Otherwise, only injured or ill animals will see shelter.
The shelter has 110 dogs in its custody as of Tuesday. At the special meeting held by County Commission Tuesday night, the shelter's leadership team said it works most efficiently with under 70 dogs.
The shutdown will pause all owner-surrendered and free-roaming intakes, according to the release. Pets will not be confiscated unless an animal is in an emergency situation due to abuse, Dr. Cynda Crawford from UF’s Maddie’s Shelter Program said.
Alachua County Animal Resources and Care officials took in 21 animals from a single property in Micanopy two months ago following more than 200 counts of abuse.
The shelter’s director of five years, Ed Williams, put in his letter of resignation May 13 — a day after speaking as a witness in the case of Loren Cava, a pet owner who received complaints about the treatment of her dogs for over a decade. His last day was June 19.
Animal Resources and Care has six full-time kennel attendants, according to the shelter’s interim director Nikki Healy. With four attendants present per day and temporary employees brought in from other facilities, there is only enough staff for half of the animals already in the shelter, she said.
“We are seeing nationwide staffing shortages, and unfortunately, Alachua County is not immune," County Manager Michele Lieberman said. "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 press release advised public to attempt to locate the owner by looking for microchips, posting flyers and using lost and found Facebook groups such as “Gainesville Pet Finder,” if they find a free-roaming pet.
Namari Lock is a second-year journalism student and a General Assignment Reporter for the metro desk. This is her first semester at the Alligator, and she is eager to dive into whatever story comes her way. When she’s not working, she is probably sleeping or binging true crime documentaries.