DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – As the winter approaches, the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center is once again beginning to reach capacity. Michael Zimmerman, public information officer for Montgomery County Business Services, said this is the first time the shelter hasn’t been at full capacity in months. However, he said that could change in the very near future.

“We’ll get hoarding cases where we get 8, 10, 12 dogs that are in bad shape that we need to help, [that] we need to bring in and give medical attention to,” said Zimmerman. “So we like to keep some leeway in how much space we have available in case those come up. Because if we’re at maximum capacity all the time, it makes it really hard to bring in those dogs that are desperately in need of our services.”

Zimmerman said he believes the population at the shelter is in part, a reflection of many adopters having “buyer’s remorse” when they realized they couldn’t take care of the animals they brought home during the pandemic. But strays, he said, are another huge issue. 

“One of the issues that we’re really concerned with is dogs just being abandoned. So a lot of times when we’re out and our officers are picking up dogs, they don’t have any identification on them, they don’t have microchips. So to tell whether they actually got free from a home or whether someone dropped them off in the middle of nowhere, it’s really hard to tell, but we think that abandonment is a huge issue.”

And with winter conditions soon to begin, he said he expects that the shelter could become full again, when reports of animals being left in noticeably harmful conditions begin to flow in. That’s where he said community members can step in. 

“We’re activity looking for volunteers. So if anyone would like to volunteer to help here at the shelter, please contact us at (937) 898-4457. If you go to our website, there are some links there to the application to be a volunteer. We’re also look for foster families. So maybe you don’t want a long-term commitment, but you want to help these dogs. Well having a dog in a home environment, even if it’s not permanent, is way, way better than being in a cage in the shelter,” he said.

Contrary to popular belief, he also said community members who see a lost dog that looks like it may belong to a home, shouldn’t immediately call the Animal Resource Center. With only 17 percent of dogs returned to their homes after going to a shelter, he said the best course of action is to ask neighbors if they know who the dog belongs to, which could result in a better outcome for the dog, the family, and even future adopters. 

“If the shelter’s got too many dogs in it, that’s a lot of barking, that’s a lot of stress, that’s a lot of different dogs in here,” said Zimmerman. “That raises the stress level of dogs. That can lead to behavioral changes. That can lead to a dog who wasn’t aggressive previously, becoming aggressive and becoming dangerous and because we’re primarily a public safety organization, we can’t release dangerous dogs back out into the community so those dogs have to be euthanized, unfortunately.”

He said those who can no longer take care of their pets can also consider rehoming pages on social media to give them a better transition and keep them out of the shelter. 

To sign up to volunteer your time at the Animal Resource Center, click here. To foster a pet, click here.