JAMES CITY COUNTY — If you like slimy slobber and catching balls in the rain, then Heritage Humane Society has the dog for you.
The Heritage Humane Society (HHS) is currently at “crisis capacity” according to Executive Director Kimberly Laska. With so many pups, the kennels have expanded past their usual space and into staff offices, classrooms and even in the lobby.
“The current length of stay is longer because animals aren’t being adopted. As an open-admission shelter, we have to have kennels available, day and night, for animals to come in. And, we are having a capacity challenge,” stated Laska. “This is a state-wide problem. There is an absolute crisis in the number of animals in care. It used to be if any one shelter got bogged down, we could reach out and the network of other shelters would step in and help out by transferring so that everyone could operate fully. Unfortunately, every single shelter is in the same capacity crisis.”
As of this writing, there are 43 dogs ready and waiting for adoptions with 22 more in care at the facility. Almost all of these are larger breeds. The smaller canines and puppies tend to get scooped up quickly but many of the bigger pups, especially the pit mixes, take longer to find homes.
Adam Claar, HHS Dog Training Instructor, says of some of the longest shelter residents, “one of the reasons these dogs have been here so long is that they are just big, strong boys. They are very active and will require somebody with an active lifestyle who is up for a little bit of a challenge, but each of them are certainly worth it.”
While adoptions are always a priority, there are other ways to assist. HHS has needs for volunteers and fosters.
The foster program is a great way to have that companion and get to know how a dog may fit into your lifestyle without a lifelong commitment. To become a foster, the simple process starts with filling out an application and an interview.
“A lot of times, people think they have to make a really long time commitment to be a foster and that is not the case anymore,” explained Laska. “If we have animals in our care that we are trying to evaluate or if we want to see how they do in a non-shelter environment, a foster situation is the perfect way to assess. What we see in kennels is usually very, very different than how they behave in a home with a family and activities. So, it really does make a difference in finding out how they adapt.”
The foster program is imperative to the adoption process since it provides a wealth of information to potential adopters, as well as allowing dogs relief from the shelter environment.
Volunteer opportunities for dog walkers and Fido Field Trips are also needed.
“For me, when I am volunteering or out on a field trip, that is time I can give them [dogs] out of kennel. I get to give that dog a break from the stress and hopefully, let them know that I care and that they are loved,” said Cynthia Reaves, an HHS volunteer who walks shelter dogs and has participated in Fido Field trips.
So, what can our community do? If you are considering a pet, go visit. Or, check out the many foster and volunteer programs HHS has available. The shelter is open for visits between noon and 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
HHS will be offering a 50% on adult (10 month and older) dog adoptions through July 23. This offer will be for any new approved applicant ready to take home their pup the same day.
“We have some incredible breed dogs, and unfortunately we have lots of them,” Laska laments.
For more information, visit Heritage Humane Society.