Shelters concerned about capacity

It’s been a crazy couple of months for Oreo, a black Lhasa Apso mix found wandering in February without a collar near the Garrison train station.

After being caught as a stray near the Garrison train station, Oreo found a new home in Sleepy Hollow. Photo provided
After being caught as a stray near the Garrison train station, Oreo found a new home in Sleepy Hollow. (Photo provided)

The 3-year-old pup became a minor sensation in the Philipstown Locals group on Facebook when someone posted a photo of the dog eating a dead rabbit on Upper Station Road.

After being caught and transported to the Putnam County Humane Society in Carmel, Oreo has a new home with Karin Eade in Sleepy Hollow, where he is reported to be chasing tennis balls and snuggling with Eade’s mother, a cancer survivor.

Unfortunately, Oreo is one of a growing number of dogs and cats being abandoned or given up by their owners to shelters.

“People are struggling,” said Cassi Paupst, a board member of the nonprofit Animal Rescue Foundation in Beacon. “People are having a hard time holding onto their dogs.”

Paupst said the shelter has seen an increase in abandoned dogs over the last six months. Three owners surrendered dogs in recent weeks, which created a challenge for a facility that only has room for 16.

In Putnam County, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 2022 saw a 285 percent increase in dog and cat abandonment calls, said Det. Sgt. Ken Ross III, of the SPCA Police, which is charged with enforcement of animal cruelty laws.

The Dutchess County SPCA has also seen an increase in strays and abandonments, said Lynne Meloccarro, its executive director. She said there were more than 40 strays or abandoned dogs processed during the first quarter this year, which already puts the shelter ahead of its 2022 pace, when there was a total of 167, with summer — the busiest period of the year — still ahead. A similar number of cats have been abandoned this year, she said.

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“The economy is affecting people’s ability to keep their animals,” said Meloccarro. “The fact that we got so many dogs early in the year is alarming.”

She said many of the owners bringing dogs to the shelter have been evicted from their apartments and can’t take the animals with them to their new homes.

Nationally, many animal welfare organizations are struggling with capacity challenges because more animals are coming into shelters than leaving, said Craig Alexander of the ASPCA in New York City. Alexander said the most common reasons for abandonments are relocations, job changes and expense. He noted that, contrary to what some people may think, animals acquired during the pandemic are not being abandoned at greater rates.

But Ken Ross Jr., chief of the Putnam County SPCA, says he suspects the pandemic did play a role, because the number of strays began to rise about a year ago, in early 2022, when pandemic restrictions began to ease.

People adopted pets they had no idea how to care for and “realized they don’t come with an off switch,” he said. “You can’t just put them in a closet.”

Local Shelters

Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF)
54 Simmons Lane, Beacon | 845-831-5161
By appointment after application
Fees: $150-$350 (dogs); $75-$125 (cats)

Compassionate Animal Rescue Efforts
60 Smith Crossing Road, Wappingers Falls | 845-240-4862
By appointment after application
Fees: $350-$400 (dogs); $150-$200 (cats)

Dutchess County SPCA
636 Violet Ave., Hyde Park | 845-452-7722 x420
Open Tues. to Sat., Noon to 5 p.m.
Fees: $75-$450 (dogs); $35-$200 (cats)

Mid Hudson Animal Aid (Cats)
54 Simmons Lane, Beacon | 845-831-4321
By appointment after application
Fees: $100-$200

Putnam Humane Society
68 Old Route 6, Carmel | 845-225-7777
Open daily 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (dogs)
Open daily 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. (cats)
Fees: $75-$195 (dogs); $50-$150 (cats)

Exactly how Oreo ended up in Garrison is not clear, said Karen Jackson, the Philipstown dog-control officer. Jackson was able to identify the dog and his Spring Valley owner by scanning an ID chip inserted under the skin between the dog’s shoulder blades. The owner told her the dog’s name was Oreo.

Of the owner, she said, “he just didn’t want the responsibility.”

Michele Dugan, board president and shelter director at the Putnam Humane Society in Carmel, said the owner told the shelter that Oreo had been lost but that he was willing to surrender the pet. “He was moving and his roommates couldn’t take the dog,” she said.

Oreo came to the attention of the Garrison residents in mid-February.

Karin Eade with Oreo(Photo provided)
Karin Eade with Oreo (Photo provided)

“When I first saw him, he had a bunny in his mouth,” said Emily Quant, who posted a message with photos on Facebook. Her post generated 90 comments while residents offered suggestions about how to catch the dog.

It was tricky. “I didn’t think those little legs could run that fast,” said Quant, who put out water and food to entice Oreo.

Jackson got within 10 feet with a catch pole but Oreo was too quick. A few days later, a neighbor trapped Oreo in a gated yard. After arriving at the Putnam Humane Society, he was neutered and put up for adoption.

As it happened, Eade, 58, was looking for a small dog. Her mother had finished cancer treatments and wanted a companion. When they visited the humane society facility in Carmel, they fell in love.

“As soon as we saw his face, we said, ‘He’s our dog’,” recalled Eade, who lives with her mother. When she returned to pick up Oreo on March 13, she brought four packages of Oreo cookies in trade, concerned she might be competing with other prospective owners and need something to tip the scales.

At his new home, Oreo loves playing fetch and tossing around a stuffed pig. “He has a big-dog personality in a little body,” said Eade, who has owned many larger dogs. “This is one of the best dogs I’ve ever had.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Joey Asher is a freelance writer and former reporter for The Journal News.

2 replies on “More Pets Being Abandoned”

  1. Thank you so much for bringing light to this issue. So many people assume that shelters are still empty, as was often reported during the height of the pandemic. But now shelters are drowning in surrenders and strays, while adoption rates have plummeted.

    As an experienced fosterer working with rescue organizations, I have never seen so many puppies and dogs in need of homes. Anyone considering a new pet, or looking to give back to the community, should explore fostering and/or adoption. All pet owners can help the homeless pet population by spaying/neutering their pets: It’s best for their health and crucial to de-creasing the surplus pet population, which in the U.S. is in the millions. [via Instagram]

  2. Isn’t it time to address the need for shelters? 1. Because some “human” beings are cruel, heartless and evil! 2. Because decent humans look the other way! And 3. Because abusers get away with it

    The next time you see an animal being neglected or abused, think of Bob Dylan’s words, “Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

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