HAYDEN — Debbie Jeffrey doesn’t cry easily, but lately, she finds herself fighting back tears.
“It just breaks your heart that people can be so cruel,” the executive director of Companions Animal Center said Thursday.
Abused and neglected animals are increasingly winding up at the shelter on Atlas Road, either through surrenders, being picked up by animal control or people finding them.
One case involved two emaciated dogs, one so thin and weak she had to be taken to a shelter. He is being nursed back to health.
In another, a cat was brought in with a zip tie tight around its private parts. This required surgery.
“How could anyone be so cruel or think it’s funny to do this to a cat?” Jeffries said Thursday.
Stories of atrocities continue.
Someone put the cat in a plastic bag and left it on Tubbs Hill. When hikers saw the backpack in motion, it was rescued.
When one was found in the yard, it weighed a little over 4 pounds.
And there was an abandoned mother cat with kittens, found near a dump site, her face swollen and infected.
In another case, a woman abandoned eight kittens, each weighing less than a pound, and all with ringworm. They are being treated and kept in isolation.
“This is cruelty you’re seeing,” Jeffrey said.
The nonprofit Companions Animal Center faces more challenges.
Many dogs brought in by animal control end up abandoned, and a growing population of large dogs fills its kennels.
He recently captured eight pit bulls when their owner was arrested. According to reports, they were living in a car.
It has about 40 dogs weighing about 50 pounds or more, which take longer to adopt. CAC breeds include boxers, bulldogs, hounds, huskies, shepherds, pit bulls and retriever/lab mixes.
Vicki Nelson, development director, said Arrival has a shelter that uses every kennel.
“It’s just backup,” he said.
Nelson also said he’s seen an increase in animal control dogs, and a decrease in people claiming them.
In other words, people often dump their dogs or leave them in the neighborhood, and drive away.
Even purebreds like Australian Shepherds, Catahoulas and Labradoodles are going unclaimed.
During October of this year, Coeur d’Alene Animal Control seized 233 dogs and 136 were claimed by their owners, 58%.
Last year, of the 164 dogs taken in by Coeur d’Alene Animal Control, 88 were claimed by owners, 60%.
“People used to pick up their dogs from animal control. Now, they’re not being picked up,” Jeffrey said.
So far this year, 1,157 pets have been adopted at CAC, up from 1,412 in 2022.
While she always has a waiting list of people who want to surrender cats, she now has a list for those willing to give up dogs.
This year, the CAC has 97 animals left, compared to 76 total animals for 2022.
“In the last decade, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a waiting list for dogs,” Nelson said.
Costs are also increasing. In one month, CAC spent $9,000 on medical supplies for pets. While it was budgeted for, it’s a big chunk.
“The animals that come in often need medical care,” Nelson said.
Fundraisers like Lights of Love and its thrift stores help cover the costs of adoptions, vaccinations and spay and neuter clinics.
“What we charge for these services doesn’t cover our costs,” Nelson said.
Jeffery said he believes people are surrendering or dumping pets because of rising rents and increased fees and deposits for animals in Kootenai County.
It’s also becoming increasingly difficult to find a landlord who will allow tenants to keep a large dog, and many are simply struggling financially.
“Discretionary income is not what it was a year ago,” Jeffrey said.
Both Nelson and Jeffrey believe that education about the responsibilities that come with pet ownership will help reduce homeless animals, but there is more at play, Jeffrey said.
“I think you’re starting to see people’s frustration,” he said.