It costs about $70 to adopt a pet from the New Hanover County Animal Shelter, which covers the cost for a long list of vaccinations and microchipping. But picking out a pet is the fun part which often overshadows the reality of its full-time care.
“The first thing people need to do before they adopt is think about do they have the facilities to take care of this pet, the proper conditions at home?,” said Lt. Croom. “Do they have an apartment? Is it a puppy that’s gonna require to be walked three times a day? What kind of job do you have? Before people adopt a pet, I think they need to do a little self-eval about what’s going on in their life.”
“Every breed has a purpose," said shelter manager Nancy Biszick Ryan. "Someone goes out and gets an Australian Shephard or a Border Collie, and they want a lap dog - they’re up for a sore disappointment.”
Matching an owner to a pet is one of the biggest challenges for shelter staff when there’s only about an hour or so introduction.
Owners without a solid education of what the breeds habits are put themselves at risk of something they can’t afford to care for or personally manage.
“I always say there are three things in life you don’t have to have in order to live: and that’s a kid, a relationship, and an animal,” said Officer Stephen Watson. “You don’t need those things in order to survive.”
On an average year, the shelter adopts out about 1,000 animals but takes in around 3,000.
“Animals are so disposable,” said Jennie Lyn Hoyt, frustrated. “It bothers me that people are so quick to get rid of their animals. You have the type that come in and are honest with you, ‘I can’t afford it.’ Then you have the other people that you KNOW it’s their animal and they won’t fess up to it.”
The front desk staff sees its fair share of pet owners who come in with elaborate stories, not wanting to admit they are abandoning their pet.
Their reasons are never known, likely cost or stress, but the story about having just found the dog is usually obvious based on the dog’s familiarity with the person.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who adopt and take in too many pets, and Animal Services is called in to help.
“Usually they get a dog, and they feel bad, and they get another dog, and they feel bad, and they get their 50th dog," said Ryan. "So their heart's in the right place, but there’s maybe a disconnect with what they can take care of versus what they’re actually taking care of."
Being a college town is one of the biggest drivers to both pet adoption and abandonment in New Hanover County.
Students who miss home and their pets will make a quick replacement and find the next apartment they move into will not accept their animal.
That pet will end up at the shelter’s doors.
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