At 11 a.m. on a dreary Saturday morning, staff at the Aiken County Animal Shelter are already having an extremely difficult day.
"Whenever there are storms, we start getting nervous," said FOTAS Programs Director Kathy Jacobs. "We start getting a higher intake from dogs getting out of their yards and stuff."
Jacobs has a good reason to be anxious. The shelter took in 17 animals on Friday and over 102 cats and dogs this week. They have officially hit crisis capacity; without an influx of adoptions or foster homes, they may need to start euthanizing very soon.
"This has been a really rough month for us," Jacobs said. "When I came in this morning, there wasn't an open kennel."
They've had to double up most dogs in the kennels, which Jacobs said "isn't good" for many of the dogs.
"You can just kind of hear it in the kennels – they're barking, the stress level is really high," Jacobs said.
Kennel stress is a big problem for dogs. Not only does it make them uncomfortable, but dogs suffering from kennel stress also find it very difficult to be adopted into homes.
One such dog is Joshua, a mixed breed that FOTAS has posted videos of on their Facebook page. Although Joshua's foster home said he was very laid back, preferring to nap and relax for most of the day, in the shelter he has trouble calming down.
"He's a couch potato, but the atmosphere here gets him spinning in his kennel and his stress level is so high that he's almost screaming," Jacobs said. "No one wants to adopt him because they think that's what it's going to be like, and it's the complete opposite."
For other dogs like Joshua, a new program called Home to Home has been very helpful for keeping animals out of the shelter. When people want to surrender their pets, they have the option of submitting the animal's info to the Home to Home website, which gets animals adopted directly into homes without going to the shelter first.
Jacobs called the program a "blessing."
The Aiken County Animal Shelter is located at 333 Wire Road.