Offices and hallways are doubling as kennel space at the Franklin County Humane Society, which can house 50 dogs comfortably but is coping with caring for 70.
And that number is growing.
"We got in six today," assistant director Lauren Bailey said Tuesday.
The overcrowding started in August 2012, when a Franklin District Court judge ordered the shelter to take custody of a variety of animals, including 20 pit bulls, that had been taken from Sandra Coy and William Coy. The couple pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of animal cruelty. The shelter is legally bound to keep the animals until the case is resolved, Bailey said.
In mid-January, 17 pit bulls were removed from another home.
In both cases, the animals had suffered from neglect, had health problems and were not properly socialized, she said.
Currently before the Kentucky legislature is a bill, HB 235, that would require "any person who has been convicted of, entered an Alford plea to, or pleaded guilty to cruelty to animals in the first degree" to "forfeit ownership of the animal or animals."
Bailey said she hopes the bill will pass so animals in those circumstances will not be left at the shelter indefinitely.
Because of the overwhelming demand, Bailey said, the shelter needs supplies, especially Purina Dog Chow, and volunteers to walk the dogs. The shelter makes every effort to avoid euthanizing animals, but pressure mounts as resources continue to be strained, she said.
It's hard to find adoptive homes for pit bulls because they've been linked in recent years to dog fighting, Bailey said.
It's not unusual for shelters across the country to struggle when a large number of animals come under their care, said Inga Fricke, director of the shelter and of rescue group services for the Humane Society of the United States. It's also not uncommon for those dogs to be pit bull-type dogs.
Humane society professionals have been working to clear up confusion about pit bulls, she said. There is no pit bull breed. Many people assume that any short-haired, stocky dog is a pit bull and apply the misconception that it is violent or dangerous.
"The animal-loving community has gotten behind the idea that no dog should be judged just by their looks," she said.
Even within breeds, dogs' personalities can vary widely, she said. People are often attracted to a pit bull or pit bull mix without understanding how large it will grow or its need for exercise and stimulation. What is cute at eight or 10 weeks can change as a dog grows, she said.
The Lexington Humane Society is doing its part to stem the overpopulation of pit bulls, development director Madison Carey said. The Love-A-Bull program, which offers free spaying and neutering for pit bulls, began last year with a grant. The overpopulation is such a problem — 20 percent of the dogs at the shelter at any given time are pit bulls — that the program will continue when the grant money runs out. Similar programs focused on pit bulls are becoming common across the country, she said.
As far as the Franklin County shelter is concerned, Bailey said she hopes that families will step up and consider giving some of the dogs at the shelter a new home. The shelter has posted this to its Facebook page: "Please come by the shelter and adopt! We are overflowing with dogs."
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Franklin County Humane Society, FCHSanimals.org or (502) 875-7297.
Lexington Humane Society, Love-A-Bull Program, (859) 233-0044, Ext. 228.