As Carren Bowden cradled a sick, tiny, mahogany-colored puppy, it wasn’t immediately evident that Corinne T. Smith Animal Center is overcrowded with cats and dogs. Severely so.
Bowden is the center’s director, and the puppy was the only animal present with Bowden and another worker in the center’s intake area.
But through doors that lead to dog and cat kennels and cages, there were 160 dogs and about 100 cats as of Friday. Ideally, the center would have about 70 dogs and 65 cats.
“We’re quite overloaded,” Bowden said. “Our numbers went up at the end of the school year. Our high point was about 185 dogs and close to that number of cats — over 300 animals.
The puppy Bowden held had been brought in earlier Friday with nine other puppies. The puppies had been left in a box in a rural area, and someone found them and brought them to the center. The puppies were covered with flees and wormy, and the puppy Bowden held was anemic and having a particularly rough time, Bowden said.
Near the intake area, four pit bull puppies in a confined area grew excited and wanted to play as Bowden approached them. The puppies and several other siblings were born at the center after their pregnant mother, who was abandoned at Lake Brownwood, was brought in.
The hope, of course, is that the animals will be adopted out or rescue shelters will take them. But animals are coming in to the center at a far greater rate than they’re going out. Euthanasia is a last resort at the center, but sometimes it can’t be avoided, Bowden said.
There are adoption fees — 150 to adopt a cat and $90 for a cat. That may seem like a lot of money, but it’s actually a bargain, Bowden said. The fees cover the cost of vaccinations, spay and neuter and microchips, and heartworm tests for dogs more than six months old, she said.
The overcrowding is stressful on the center’s staff and on the animals, Bowden said. “We’re an open intake shelter, so we can’t turn them away,” she said. “We try our best to get them out.”