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Local Animal Shelters Facing An Unprecedented Overcrowding Crisis

Holly Crotty hasn't seen overcrowding this bad in all the years she's worked at TAPS No-Kill Animal Shelter in Pekin.

“We are seeing a crisis in the animal welfare industry like we have never seen before. If you’re thinking about welcoming an animal into your home, consider rescue, whether it be TAPS, whether it be an animal control," she said.

Central Illinois animal shelters and foster care groups are dealing with levels of overcrowding never seen before as the country re-emerges from the worst of the pandemic. They say they need help to find rescued animals safe homes, and prevent more people from surrendering their pets.

Peoria-area shelters are encouraging those able to consider adoptions to give an animal a better life and help reduce the overcrowding issue.

However, there are still other ways for people to help out local animal shelters.

Foster Pet Outreach, a nonprofit that fosters pets needing temporary placement before adoption, is also in need of volunteers and people willing to share information through social media.

Foster home coordinator Alyssa Emanuelson says during the pandemic, people were on their computers and phones while at home and shared posts more often. Now that people are going back to work, Emanuelson says monetary donations and social media engagement are down.

“Those likes and those shares on social media really do matter, so getting the word out about our program really is a big thing. So, our trending is down a little bit on our social media, and that is something that we could use people sharing, liking our page and following us," she said.

Crotty said individuals can help animal shelters like TAPS through sharing posts on the TAPS Pekin Illinois Facebook page, because you never know when sharing a post might impact someone looking to adopt a rescue animal.

Emanuelson also says overcrowding at animal shelters results in foster volunteers taking in up to four animals at a time in need of a permanent family, so they need people willing to open their home and foster animals to lessen the load on other volunteers.

SAMS Rescue in Hanna City has also been managing a high intake of animals, but the outtake is low. People are less likely to adopt during summer vacation season.

Shelter Lead Alex Menke says one large reason for overcrowding is that too many litters of kittens end up neglected and dropped off at animal shelters each year due to people not spaying or neutering their house and barn cats.

“So, when you have unspayed males or females that you let wander – that they’re indoor or outdoor cats and they’re not spayed – you’re not being responsible for your pet, and you’re not doing the responsible thing for your community," Menke said.

She encouraged those with cats and dogs to look into programs at local shelters that offer low-cost spaying and neutering to help reduce the number of litters born each year that end up on the streets or in shelters.

Additionally, to reduce the number of animals surrendered to shelters, Menke says before adopting pets, consider the responsibilities that will be required of you as their owner not only now but down the road – such as moving, having children, veterinary bills and more.

“We want people to really think about ‘is this pet going to grow with my family?’ ‘Are you and your dog prepared to grow together?’ ‘Are you prepared to make it work?’ Because life circumstances change, and we see that a lot," she said.

Becky Spencer, Director of the Peoria County Animal Protection Services (PCAPS), says they are dealing with over 150 animals in need of a home, and over 100 of these animals are cats.

She encourages individuals who cannot adopt to still reach out to PCAPS and learn how they can help.

“Come and talk to us about fostering animals on a temporary basis if you can’t take on the lifetime commitment to a pet," Spencer said. "Volunteering with us or donating. Really just get in touch and we can talk through what you have to offer and see if we can’t make it fit what our needs are. There’s all kinds of different ways that people help us."

Even if you can't permanently adopt a new pet into your family, local animal shelters say volunteering your time or donating can make a big difference.

Jordan Mead is a reporting intern at WCBU. She joined the station in 2021.