People can once again drop off unwanted pets at the Wake County Animal Center — but under a strict application policy — less than a month after the shelter announced it would permanently stop all owner surrenders.

In early January, the shelter said for the first time it would permanently stop owner surrenders months after an outbreak of deadly dog flu forced the shelter, located at 820 Beacon Lake Drive, to close. On Feb. 1, the policy will reverse back to the original policy, but with different guidelines.

The online application will be posted Feb. 1, when animal surrenders will again be allowed.

The flu outbreak in October killed four dogs, and shelter staff said strain on the shelter due to too many animals and not enough space contributed to the flu. Often, kennels had to be divided to accommodate twice as many animals, resulting in a crowded adoption floor and impacting the physical and emotional health of dogs.

There are only 132 dog kennels available at the Raleigh shelter, which already takes in stray and lost animals. Officials say too many people are dropping off their dogs, expecting the shelter to find new homes for them.

Many WRAL viewers were unhappy with the shelter’s decision to not allow owners to drop off pets, and the Wake County Animal Center said advocates from the rescue community asked them to reopen the doors to owner surrenders.

Wake County’s new pet surrender process

Dropping a pet off at an animal shelter should be a last resort because space is never guaranteed and, in some cases, the surrendered animal may be euthanized. The Wake County Animal Center will now ask pet owners to check other options and follow the steps below before making an appointment to drop off their pet.

  • Appointments for owner surrenders at the Raleigh shelter will be made only when space is available.
  • Once owners have exhausted the above options, then they may submit an online application to surrender their pet to the Wake County Animal Center.
  • Staff will review applications and consider the urgency of need and the availability of space.
  • If no space is available, applicants will be placed on a waiting list. Staff will assist applicants in placing their pets on rehoming websites while waiting for space.
  • Individuals who adopted from a local rescue may have a lower priority, as they are expected to return the pet directly to the rescue.

How to safely re-home your pet

For the well-being of the animal, the owner should work to find a new home for their pet by posting an advertisement or spreading the word on social media or other through platforms. Owners can also contact the rescue, pet store or breeder they used to find their pet for options.

The Wake County Animal Center has a website with more resources for rehoming your pet.

It may seem overwhelming, but there are a lot of resources to help you rehome your pet quickly and safely. If you don’t know where to start, check out these websites:

You can also use Facebook to find a good home for your pet. Check out these groups:

Overcrowding is a statewide and national crisis

The Wake County Animal Center is not the only strained shelter. Other shelters across the state, especially in rural areas, are forced to euthanize healthy dogs and cats because there is simply not enough space on the adoption floors.

North Carolina animal shelters had the second-highest euthanasia rate in the country in 2021.

Instead of buying from a pet store or breeder, you can help by adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue organization next time you’re shopping for a new pet.

Animal lovers can find a shelter or rescue organization in their area to donate pet supplies or money.

Pet owners should also spay and neuter their animals and take the proper measures to make sure their animal does not get lost.

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