Michigan animal shelters face capacity crisis

Experts host live discussion panel to talk solutions

Michigan Pet Alliance (MPA) is hosting a live panel discussion with industry leaders to talk about the overcrowding, capacity crisis that our animal shelters, both public and private, have been battling.

This virtual opportunity, Monday, November 14, 2022, noon to 1 p.m. Eastern, is free to participants and open to everyone. Shelters leadership, staff and volunteers are encouraged to register at www.michiganpet.org/education-and-training/online-training/

The panel of experts will share their approach to managing this unprecedented challenge, reviewing current data to identify some of the causes of the crisis. Additionally, they will discuss tactics to successfully help animals find homes during the adoption slowdown and for keeping animals safe and happy for the extended stays many of them are experiencing in shelters. The panel will also answer live questions from the audience.

MC Hammer, a handsome fluffy cat, has been waiting for a home at the city of Royal Oak’s animal shelter for 19 months. He came in as part of an overpopulation case during COVID-19 when his owner faced a medical emergency and was unable to return home. Royal Oak still has 14 of those 100+ cats in its care.

Rickie, a lost dog brought in overnight by a police officer, has been at the Royal Oak shelter for four months. The following day, a dog was left tied to the shelter’s gate, two other people tried to drop their dogs off, six calls and emails came in to surrender dogs and eight to surrender cats.

“We’re fortunate that we live in a community that tends to microchip and license pets, making it much easier to reunite animals in the field and keep them out of the shelter, yet we still face a capacity crisis,” said Jodie Ellison, director of the Royal Oak animal shelter. “Mid-summer of this year is when our overpopulation problem due to high intake plus increased length of stay began. At one point over the past month, we hit 200% capacity for dogs, with three-quarters of those being dogs in the shelter.”

Kuma Kali, a gorgeous 10-year-old Maine Coon/Siamese mix, has been in and out of the shelter five times in the last two years. She is currently in foster care with the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter (UPAWS).
“Kuma gets adopted, does well initially, but when taken off her health plan, declines and gets returned. Having a dedicated foster home has been so important for her to relax, come out of her shell and have consistency in her wellness plan,” said Ann Brownell, UPAWS volunteer and community outreach coordinator.

At Kent County Animal Shelter (KCAS) in Grand Rapids, dogs are waiting an average of 30 days longer for adoption. Blimpie, an adorably playful pup, has been at the shelter for 184 days, while Oscar, who is currently in foster care, has been waiting for 101 days.

“When we know that a dog should/could not live with other animals right away, they inevitably stay longer than other dogs, which is the case with Blimpie and Oscar,” said Namiko Ota-Noveskey, public health program supervisor, KCAS. “They are both still available for adoption. I think many people are looking for small/medium-size dogs, which can be due to housing (rental) restrictions.”

 Rocket, a handsome dog with the typical independent husky personality, landed at Charlevoix Area Humane Society (CAHS) 14 months ago.

 “With such a long stay, Rocket got more social media exposure, a couple extra appearances in e-newsletters and a few more pet-of-the-week radio segments,” said Scott MacKenzie, executive director, CAHS. “We knew the right folks would eventually come to his rescue.”

 So why are animals staying longer? Why aren’t they moving through the system faster? And, what do we do about it?

 The panel discussion will focus on tips, tactics and solutions to reduce length of stay and to increase live outcomes for homeless pets. The experts will explore causes for decreased capacity across the state: reasons that owners are surrendering pets, unending kitten season, lost pets, adoption rates, available foster care homes, limited shelter hours preventing access and managing mandatory holds for court cases.

 For more information, visit michiganpet.org.

Panel Experts

Dr. Julie Levy
is the Fran Marino Distinguished Professor of Shelter Education at the University of Florida where she focuses on the health and welfare of shelter animals, feline infectious diseases and humane alternatives for cat population control.
She founded nonprofit Operation Catnip, a university-based community cat trap-neuter-return program that has spayed/neutered and vaccinated more than 70,000 cats in Gainesville since 1998. In 2008, she joined Dr. Cynda Crawford to found Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the College of Veterinary Medicine, an educational and discovery initiative with a global impact on the care of homeless animals. In 2014, she joined Dr. Kate Hurley to launch the Million Cat Challenge, a shelter-based campaign that saved more than 3.5 million cats in shelters across North America. In 2022, she helped launch Maddie’s Million Pet Challenge to create transformative “communities in practice” that deliver access to care through humane, community-centric programming – inside and outside of the shelter – to achieve the right outcome for every pet.

Tanya Hilgendorf
, president and CEO, Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV), and vice-chair, Michigan Pet Alliance, has led HSHV for 17 years. With a Bachelor of Arts in political science from University of Michigan-Dearborn, a Master of Science in social work administration and public policy from Wayne State University and having served as executive director of Ozone House, Tanya’s passion centers on protecting the vulnerable (human and non-human) and transformational leadership that helps failing nonprofit organizations achieve mission success. With an incredible team, HSHV has become a thriving, dynamic, multi-service, animal welfare organization with 120 employees, 2,000+ volunteers and a save rate over 96%, helping roughly 25,000 animals a year. HSHV has earned the 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for 11 consecutive years, putting HSHV among the top 3% of all charities nationwide for fiscal responsibility and transparency. In recent years, HSHV has adopted out more animals than any other single shelter in Michigan.

Renee Wolfgramm
is the midwest animal welfare director with 24Pet. After completing a degree in zoology and working at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Renee shifted gears and started her career in the animal welfare industry at the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV), in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Renee held a variety of leadership positions at HSHV and later at Dane County Humane Society in Madison, Wisconsin. Renee now applies her customer service background and passion for data and technology to help shelters perform at peak efficiency, while positively impacting pets and pet parents.

Moderator Gary Evans
, clinic director, HSHV, is an entrepreneurially minded, operations-focused executive leader with a passion for creating teams and systems that make the world a better place. Having learned his trade in the thriving start-up tech environment, he moved to the nonprofit world several years ago and has dedicated his career to combining the efficiencies of modern business with the focus, passion and mission of nonprofits.

Michigan Pet Alliance - Michigan Pet Alliance (MPA) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 tax-exempt charitable organization and Michigan’s only professional association of animal welfare organizations. MPA was formed as a membership-based, professional trade association to bring together all of Michigan’s pet lovers and animal welfare advocates, to speak with one voice and to raise the standards of care for companion animals in Michigan. MPA strives to end the killing of healthy and treatable homeless cats and dogs in Michigan animal shelters. The MPA mission is to collaborate with advocates, animal shelters and rescue organizations to achieve a standard of best practices through training, technical assistance, education and advocacy.
MPA produces a statewide animal welfare conference, publishes the annual save rate report, ranking the performance of Michigan shelters, and bestows awards and grants to individuals and organizations leading the way in animal welfare.

For more information, please visit MichiganPet.org and follow @MichiganPetAlliance on Facebook.


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