Fireworks on Fourth strain already-packed animal shelters

Already-crowded animal shelters overflowing with runaway pets from the 4th of July

Sacramento area's already-crowded animal shelters are overflowing with runaway pets from the Fourth of July.
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Sacramento area's already-crowded animal shelters are overflowing with runaway pets from the Fourth of July.

When Bradshaw Animal Shelter opened at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, three long lines had already formed outside its doors. One line of people looking to adopt pets was typical but the other two – people with strays to turn in and people looking for their lost dogs – were largely a product of fireworks fear, said Janna Haynes, a communication and media officer for Sacramento County.

July 4 and 5 were about as hectic as expected for the shelter, which receives a dramatic influx of pets (75 percent dogs, 25 percent cats, Haynes estimated) that run away or otherwise become lost as a result of the holiday’s festivities.

In two days, Bradshaw took in 82 animals, and only 8 of those had been returned to their owner as of 5 p.m. Thursday, Haynes said. For comparison, 15 to 20 pets are admitted to the shelter on an average day.

Firework season has been only the latest challenge in a longer period of duress for the county shelter.

“We are way, way, way over capacity,” Haynes said. The shelter had 132 dog kennels for 250 dogs as of Thursday mid-afternoon.

The shelter entered “crisis mode” in June, according to Bradshaw’s Facebook page. Bradshaw has had to double and triple up kennels, give pets to more spacious shelters in Northern California and Canada, and even house dogs in the barn on their property, Haynes said.

Bradshaw anticipated the Fourth of July by conducting a microchip clinic two weeks ago, at which 226 animals were electronically tagged so that their owners could track their location. Still, Haynes said the Fourth was unusually stressful for both Bradshaw’s staff and customers.

Front Street Animal Shelter, which handles pets within Sacramento’s city limits, is usually also overwhelmed by runaway pets in the wake of the Fourth of July, said Gina Knepp, Front Street’s Animal Care Center manager.

But this year, Front Street had 18 open kennels on the morning of July 3, and as of Thursday afternoon, 7 kennels were still unoccupied. Fewer dogs had been admitted to the shelter on July 4 than average.

“That’s the first time we’ve been able to say something like that,” Knepp said.

In June, Front Street waived adoption fees, gave out free tags and microchips, and transferred 20 dogs to the Nevada Humane Society. Knepp said these preparatory efforts, combined with Front Streets frequent postings on social media sites like Facebook and Nextdoor, helped the community safeguard their loved ones and track them down quickly if they got lost.

Front Street serves a smaller geographic radius than Bradshaw.

The only other animal shelter in the county is the Sacramento SPCA, which serves Folsom, Citrus Heights and Rancho Cordova.

The SCPA has more space available than Front Street or Bradshaw, so they’ve accommodated 25 animals from the other Sacramento shelters over the past two weeks, said Dawn Foster, director of marketing and communications.

Although the SCPA received more stray animals than usual this week, Foster said the shelter has enough resources to deal with the increase and has had success contacting owners to come collect their furry friends.

Sacramentans whose animals have gone astray should make sure to check the lost and found pages of all three animal shelters in the county, Foster said, as pets may have wandered into a different region of the city than the one their owner lives in.

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