Aug 2, 2023 - News

Richmond Animal Care and Control seeing an influx of sick and abandoned animals

Illustration of dog treats spelling out “HELP”.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Richmond Animal Care and Control says it's been flooded with sick and abandoned animals this year.

Why it matters: A growing number of the dogs and cats that wind up in the shelter can't be adopted out because of illness or aggressive temperaments, says the city department's director Christie Chipps Peters.

  • That's contributed to a steady increase in the percentage of animals being euthanized at the shelter, she said.

What's happening: The shelter has already taken in 300 more animals than it had at this point last year, putting it on track to return to pre-COVID intake rates, Peters told Axios this week.

  • That increase has been accompanied by some of the worst cases of abuse and neglect she said she's seen.

The latest: The department announced Monday it's investigating a two-year-old abandoned dead dog left outside on a dog bed in the East End.

  • In May, the department found eight dead or dying dogs abandoned around the city in one week.

What they're saying: "It's the worst year ever," Peters said.

By the numbers: The shelter's euthanasia rate has doubled from 7% to 14% over the past five years, per data collected by the state.

  • Meanwhile, the city's adoption rate has dropped from 62% to 48%.

Of note: So far, Richmond appears to be an outlier among public shelters around the state, which saw their adoption rates increase slightly and euthanasia rates drop during the same time period, per the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Zoom in: Peters said she has no idea what's made this such a bad year for pet welfare in the city, but noted an increase in the number of animals left homeless as eviction rates increased as well as the ongoing spread of dog flu.

What's next: City officials acknowledge the department is working out of a shelter that is overcapacity and at the end of its useful life.

  • At a City Council meeting last month, Peters floated high-level plans for a replacement, but officials say a final decision could be between one and two years out depending on other budget needs.

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