ORLANDO, Fla. — Orange County Animal Services is appealing for volunteers and adoptions because of recent crowding that it says has pushed its Conroy Road shelter to near capacity.

What You Need To Know

  • Saying it's near capacity, Orange County Animal Services appeals for volunteers and adoptions 

  • The agency says the crowding comes from its confiscation in recent weeks of 51 dogs from homes

  • Officials say crowding overwhelms staff and volunteers who aim to give dogs personal attention

The crowding comes from the agency’s confiscation in recent weeks of 51 dogs — including 33 from a single Orlando residence — because of what it considered poor care or unsafe living conditions.

Diane Summers, manager of Orange County Animal Services, said the shelter on Thursday held 180 dogs and 136 cats. That compared with 135 dogs and 128 cats at this time in 2019 and with 124 dogs and 14 cats at this time last year, she said.

Summers said the shelter hasn’t established an official capacity because the number of animals it can take depends on whether they can be caged together — such as a mother dog with puppies — or must be caged separately.

“But I would say we are nearing capacity,” Summers told Spectrum News 13 on Thursday. 

She said the agency isn't near a point where it would consider euthanasia, to which animal shelters tend to turn only as a last resort. 

Yet animal-services officials emphasize quality of life. And because of the recent crowding, some dogs now must share cages with other dogs, which wasn’t the case when Spectrum News 13 visited the shelter in November.

Officials say the crowding also overwhelms staff and volunteers who aim to give the animals attention, exercise and playtime.

“That’s why we’re looking for volunteers and looking for people to adopt” dogs and cats, said Bryant Almeida, Orange County Animal Services' public information officer.

The agency made a similar appeal Thursday on its Facebook page, saying: “We're calling on you for help, whether that be by adopting a shelter pet, temporarily fostering an animal or just helping to spread the word.”

Summers said she can’t remember a time when the shelter held this many confiscated animals, even after the fallout from a 2014 bust of an Apopka dog fighting ring.

More than half of the confiscated dogs came from one Orlando residence that Summers said “had been on our radar for quite some time.”

She said Animal Services includes an enforcement team that works with law enforcement and responds to public requests to investigate cases such as animal strays, bites, injuries and living conditions.

The agency on April 16 confiscated 33 dogs from a home that officials considered “no longer safe for the dogs to remain there,” Summers said. “And obviously, 33 dogs in a single residence, that’s a high number of dogs for any single person to care for. And, ultimately, we felt these dogs weren’t getting the level of care that is required via our Orange County code.”

Officials found the dogs in various unsafe outdoor structures, Summers said, and “I don’t think they had access to clean water.”

The agency petitions a judge to retain custody of its confiscated dogs and must hold onto the animals during that process, she said.

“Because we’ve had so many of those cases, it has resulted in fewer available cages for our adoptable animals,” Summers said. “That’s why we have done that plea, because we really want people to come in and take our adoptable animals.”