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It's normally a slow time of the year, but the dogs keep coming and the kennels at the Holmes County Dog Warden's Office are filled to near capacity.
Dog Warden Katelyn Lehman posted Tuesday morning on the department's Facebook page the following message:
"Our kennels are completely full! If you are able to take on the responsibility of another pet please please please come adopt one of our awesome dogs. The dogs that are marked URGENT are just that, they have been here the longest or may be in need of some extra socialization. However, any adoption will help save the life of that dog, as well as open up a spot for another dog that is in need. Please spread the word, every kennel in our facility is full, there is no more room."
The post prompted an "overwhelming response," she said.
As of Wednesday, the kennel was home to 22 dogs, however, with the approaching winter and cold weather, Lehman said a kennel that can house up to 34 dogs in the summer is really only able to hold 20 in the winter. To keep more means splitting indoor/outdoor kennels and keeping some dogs outside.
Blueprints have been drawn up to expand the facility and nearly double the cage space, but finances are holding the project back.
"Normally, this time of year, we're low on dogs. I'm worried because it's getting to be late fall and they're continuing to come," said Lehman, who has "no idea" why the numbers are higher than normal.
"For a while, I think the economy had a huge impact on that, but we're not hearing that recently. They're just saying, 'I don't want this dog any more,'" she said, specifically referring to those people who turn to the kennel to release their dog. Because of the high census, Lehman said, those people are being turned away right now.
To date, the dog warden's office has taken in 332 dogs. Only four of those have been euthanized, and in those cases, were put down because of aggressiveness or medical condition, said Lehman, noting for the first time, earlier this week, "we were considering (euthanasia for population control), but I posted on Facebook and it just blew up."
While many people do turn to the kennel when looking for a pet, sometimes those animals in custody get a bad reputation because people think there must be a reason they were "unwanted," Lehman said.
To the contrary, she said, "Some of the dogs we get here are some of the smartest dogs I know. You can tell they've been worked with, are house trained, and some even know tricks."
With constant turnover of dogs ranging in size and age and disposition, she said, it's a great option for families or individuals looking to add to their family. She warns, however, that people looking to adopt can't be too picky. Seldom does the kennel see purebred dogs. And, puppies tend to go quicker than older dogs.
Nevertheless, many mix breeds make good pets.
Perhaps in the most jeopardy at the kennel is Scout, a 9-year-old senior walker coon hound. He's been there since Aug. 13. And, while he's often overlooked, "he's precious, laid back and relaxed," Lehman said. "He's vaccinated and heart worm negative and really ready to go."
All the dogs are pictured on the department's website, www.holmescountydogwarden.com. Because all the dogs are named when they come through the door, Lehman cautions owners looking for a lost pet to look past the names on the website and look only at the photo and description.
In addition to having an exceptionally high number of dogs, Lehman said the number of reclaims for the year is low. "We're trying to spread the word that we're here."
All new dogs are held for three days before being eligible for adoption. Those coming in with identification are held 14 days, while every possible attempt is made to contact the owner.
For more information about adoption or to report a lost or found dog, call 330-674-6301, visit the website or the kennel, located at 5387 County Road 349, Millersburg. Office hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Tuesday and Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Reporter Christine L. Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.