Beginning Feb. 1, the Wake County Animal Center will reopen its doors to pets whose owners can no longer care for them or no longer want them. These owners will have to follow a new, multi-step process, which includes completing an application and, when space is available, making an appointment to bring the pet in.
This new approach aims to keep owners who want to surrender their pets from exceeding the facility’s capacity. It also reduces the risk of the Center needing to euthanize animals due to a lack of space.
"The Center originally decided on Jan. 2 to suspend accepting owner surrenders due to space limitations, but some in the animal rescue community asked that we resume this important service,” said Wake County Commissioner Vickie Adamson. “Resumption of owner surrenders, by appointment, on a space-available basis is one piece of a multi-pronged approach for dealing with the capacity issues in our community.”
The County will increase its efforts to educate and inform the public on rehoming options, further promote low cost spay/neuter availability and expand pet fostering options in the community. The County will also encourage our rescue partners to continue to join us in these efforts.
In January, the Center suspended accepting owner surrenders to avoid operating above capacity, which has been the case for most of the past two years. Often, kennels had to be divided to accommodate twice as many animals, resulting in a crowded adoption floor, impacting the physical and emotional health of dogs, and the safety of staff. Given current intake trends, the Center anticipates experiencing a backlog of appointment requests immediately.
“The original decision to suspend owner surrenders was not made easily,” said Dr. Jennifer Federico, director of the Wake County Animal Center. “The current shelter was built to support a Wake County population of 190,000 residents. It’s now at nearly 1.2 million residents.”
“Although we’ve decided to resume applications for owner surrenders on Feb. 1, we need our community to consider our Center as their last resort. When you adopt an animal, it is a lifetime commitment. Responsible pet ownership is one of the most important components in addressing our overcapacity issue,” Dr. Federico added.
How the New Process Works
Before applying to surrender a pet, the Center will ask the owners to try to rehome their pet on their own, using this dedicated webpage with tips and recommendations. Owners are the best advocates for their pets, because they know them better than anyone and can help find the best fit.
Owners are encouraged to:
- Use designated websites for private pet rehoming.
- Reach out to friends, family and co-workers to spread the word.
- Contact the rescue organization or breeder where they obtained the pet.
- If applicable, search for a breed-specific rescue for assistance.
Once owners have exhausted the above options, then they may submit an online application to surrender their pet to the Center.
The staff will review applications and consider the urgency of need and the availability of space. If no space is available, applicants will be placed on a waiting list. Staff will assist applicants in placing their pets on rehoming websites while waiting for space at the Center.
Surrender appointments won't follow the order of incoming requests, but they will be prioritized based on need and the specific available space. Individuals who adopted from a local rescue may have a lower priority, as they are expected to return the pet directly to the rescue.
Animals that are brought in for stray hold, protective custody, bite quarantine or court case holds must legally be held by the shelter for specific lengths of time. Owners have always been told, and will continue to be told, that their pet is immediately available upon surrender for adoption, transfer or euthanasia. If the Animal Center runs out of space, and there is a legally required intake of an animal, once all available options are exhausted, animals that are available on the adoption floor will unfortunately be prioritized for euthanasia to create the necessary space.