Less than two weeks after being rescued from what was described as a hoarding situation, the Cheyenne Animal Shelter says more than 60 dogs are doing well.
Several have already been adopted, others being encouraged or awaiting evaluation for adoption. And the community — after stepping up donations, volunteerism and foster homes — has made a difficult situation more manageable, shelter CEO Britney Tennant told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Tuesday.
On April 16, animal control officers responded to a call about about 20 large-breed dogs on the loose on the south side of Cheyenne, according to a Saturday news release from the city. With the help of the city’s Compliance Department, the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office and community members, animal control officers rounded up 23 dogs and transported them to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter, along with “a handful more over the next few days”.
The city’s Compliance Department took over animal control services for the city and county on September 1.
“After contacting the dog’s owner, animal control quickly became aware of the seriousness of the situation in which the dogs and their owner found themselves,” the press release said. “The owner has accepted an offer to release all the animals so that they can receive medical care and more adequate housing.”
Tennant said she understands animal control officers did not issue a citation to the previous owner because the owner returned the animals. She said the shelter supports the decision because this type of case is usually difficult to prosecute and the animals must be withheld as evidence for the duration of criminal proceedings, which puts a strain on both the shelter and the animals themselves.
An animal control supervisor could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
A total of 64 dogs, 13 birds and “a handful” of cats – nine, Tennant estimated – were removed from the situation. Dog breeds included St. Bernards, English Mastiffs, Bullmastiffs, Catahoula Leopard Dogs and Great Pyrenees, according to an animal shelter email newsletter.
The birds were of various types. Although the shelter was originally told there were around 100 birds, that number later dropped to 40 and 13 were eventually left at home. Tennant said she didn’t know what caused such a large discrepancy in bird numbers.
In about 48 hours, the shelter’s dog population doubled, Tennant said in an interview.
Thirteen puppies have been born since the rescue of the dogs, and another mother is waiting to give birth.
For the first few days they were in the shelter, the dogs were “pretty closed off and fearful,” Tennant said. In an April 19 newsletter, she described them as “undersocialized, unaccustomed to living as pets, dirty, and generally unwilling or unable to walk on a leash.”
The shelter added in a subsequent email newsletter that it decided to label it a hoarding situation because the animals were “covered in their own waste, were allowed to breed indiscriminately, had no medical records or established relationship with a veterinarian, and had untreated illnesses and injuries,” even if they were minors.
“When we can, we’ve lined them up in kennels so they can enjoy some company and we can make the most of our available space,” Tennant wrote. “But, at 150 pounds or more, most adults can’t share the space. There are so many that we’ve had to take all of our other shelter dogs and condense them into just two adoption rooms. The space available per dog is less than half of our usual allowance.
One of the shelter’s adoption rooms is currently closed, Tennant said, to house some of the larger dogs in the group who still need “significant” grooming. These dogs need to have their matted fur removed before they can be checked for medical issues, she said.
Last Thursday, less than a week after the huge influx of dogs, the shelter said in a newsletter that the dogs were already doing better. Shelter staff “worked diligently” to care for the animals, according to the newsletter, and each received daily enrichment and time away from their kennels. Veterinary staff worked on sick and injured dogs, and they took the appropriate medications. The shelter had partnered with “many” rescue groups and met with many community members interested in fostering and adoption.
In the days that followed, all of the dogs in the hoarding situation started walking on leashes, with some doing well, Tennant said in the interview. The dogs are eating and most have come out of their shells.
“Every day we see improvements,” she said. “There are a few new dogs every day that have been hiding in the back of their kennel until this new day, and now all of a sudden they are at the front of their kennel, wagging their tails, looking for the attention and the interaction of people. So I think they are settling in very well.
The shelter’s CEO also described them as “the most beautiful dogs from a hoarding situation we’ve ever seen.”
As of Tuesday evening, 36 dogs appeared on the shelter’s website as available for adoption. Tennant said all but about 10 of the currently available dogs have been dropped from the hoarding situation.
The week these dogs arrived at the shelter, the CEO said, 13 non-situational dogs who had been available at the shelter “for some time” were adopted.
“The (hoarding) case has drawn attention not just to these dogs, but to many dogs in shelters, so we’ve seen quite a marked increase in adoptions over the past two weeks compared to what we’ve seen. had since the start of the year,” Tennant said.
Even so, the shelter is still well above its typical capacity of 125-140 animals. Tennant said the shelter housed 212 animals as of Tuesday afternoon, and the situation is only tenable because so many people have taken animals into foster care.
Being so overwhelmed with animals requiring a high level of care has strained shelter workers, Tennant said — physically, mentally and emotionally — with many 12- to 15-hour shifts.
The large influx of dogs also came during the busiest week of the year for the shelter, as it prepared for its annual Fur Ball fundraising gala.
The shelter is always in need of monetary donations, especially given the large amount of overtime it has to pay employees right now, said Niki Harrison, the shelter’s annual campaign and branding director, in an interview with the WTE.
But Harrison and Tennant said what will really help the shelter and get it back to normal is more adoptions.
People can now just show up for an adoption appointment, rather than booking one in advance, Harrison said, although the wait can sometimes be up to an hour.
Until the end of the week, all adult dogs — those seven months and older — available for adoption will have a fee of just $50.
And while the impact on staff has been real and difficult, the situation has been largely positive, Tennant said. Donations of dog food and other supplies poured in, from both businesses and individuals. Veterinary clinics and groomers donated their services. Refueling campaigns were organized and mental health care services for staff were offered. Black Dog Animal Rescue took in five of the animals, including a pregnant dog.
So many people have asked to volunteer that a fast-track onboarding process has been created for those who want to walk dogs, spend time with cats, clean kennels, do laundry and dishes or keep space of clean shelter.
Due to the publicity given to the case and the huge response from the community, Tennant said, “These animals are going to be in a really good place in a pretty short amount of time.”