Facing severe overcrowding at the Sumter County Animal Shelter, commissioners Tuesday night adopted a socially conscious shelter resolution, superseding the no-kill shelter policy established in December 2020.
The change could mean greater use of euthanasia to control the population.
On Aug. 15, the shelter housed 143 dogs, nearly triple its capacity.
Use of temporary kennels and containment of animal waste have been problems.
Since January 2020, shelter staff have reported 28 injury incidents including 13 due to animal bites. Volunteers or guest reported an additional 13 bites.
County Administrator Bradley Arnold said current shelter conditions are unsafe and “not a sustainable operation.”
A veterinarian hired in June has developed plans to improve shelter animal care, but her proposals are difficult to implement due to overcrowding.
The resolution reaffirmed the county’s 2019 goal of a 90 percent live release rate for shelter animals.
“No kill translates into slow kill,” said Commissioner Roberta Ulrich, because dogs held in cages often become insane and unmanageable.
She described how she and her husband adopted an emaciated rescue dog cowering in a corner near two pit bulls.
Commissioner Don Wiley said one of his worst days during his short tenure with the county was visiting the animal shelter. He saw too many pit bulls and similar breeds that won’t be adopted.
“I believe the intent was good for a no-kill shelter,” he said. “But good intentions have to deal with reality.”
During the public forum portion of the meeting, Marilyn Iskra, a longtime proponent of socially conscious sheltering, said keeping dogs in cages for extended periods is cruel.
“The open (shelter) no-kill policy is not working,” she said.
Ulrich’s husband, Paul, said the burden of too many animals means some shelter dogs are walked only once a week.
The no-kill shelter policy was adopted after it was supported by hundreds of people attending county meetings over several years.