Playing Tetris at the dog shelter: Adoption rates on the rise, but so are intakes


The Wood County Dog Shelter is playing Tetris with the constant intake and adoption of dogs.

Adoptions at the shelter are up, but so are the number of dogs being accepted.

Four dogs were adopted at the shelter’s recent adoption event, “which for us is a good day,” said Dog Warden Jodi Harding.

But six dogs came in the next day.

Last Friday, five dogs were adopted and eight were brought in over the weekend.

Harding said they were playing Tetris sometimes with the dogs.

Tetris, a 1984 video game, challenges players to make order out of chaos using a specific organization system.

Harding reported on the shelter’s numbers as of May at Tuesday’s Wood County Commissioners meeting.

“We are seeing a lot of dogs we believed are dumped in fields … and no people calling to say I’m missing my dog,” she said.

She provided intake, adoption, redemption and euthanasia numbers for the past 10 years.

At the current rate, she expects to take in 400 dogs this year. As of May 31, the shelter had received 163 dogs. The highest number of intakes was in 2015, with 544; the lowest was in 2021, when 312 dogs were taken in.

Harding said other dog wardens and humane societies are having similar issues, so this is a national problem.

“Unfortunately, it is an epidemic everywhere. Nobody is sure why, either people can’t afford their pets or whatever the case is,” she said.

The number of dogs sitting in the shelter that are being transferred to rescue organizations has dropped from a high of 98 in 2016 to 48 last year as those organizations also are full, she said.

Adoptions have been up, “so we’ve been staying afloat that way,” she said.

The adoption rate at the shelter is currently 91.6%, she said.

However, as more dogs arrive, more and more are not adoptable, and a dog’s length of stay is growing as bigger dogs are being taken in.

A dog that had been there since March, making it the longest on site, was adopted last week, Harding said.

A Shih Tzu found lying on the ramp at Interstate 75 and Cygnet Road had eight potential adoptees, and just went to its forever home on Monday.

“We don’t know how she ended up there. Someone saw her lying on the exit ramp and ODOT actually created a barrier around her until we got there,” she said.

“She was really scared but she hung out in my office while we had a stray hold,” Harding said.

A stray hold is the length of time a dog shelter can hold an animal with or without a license before putting it up for adoption.

A litter of 5-month-old St. Bernard-mix puppies were surrendered by a breeder who couldn’t sell them, and they were adopted within days.

In March, someone was seen driving into a field in Perrysburg and letting two dogs out. It took 10 days to catch them.

“That is horrible for the dogs. They can be hit by a car, or they can starve to death,” Harding said. “It is not a good situation for any animal to be in.”

Once dogs are fully vetted, they get adopted much quicker, Harding said.

“We’re trying to make them more appealing for the public,” she said.

Even pit bulls, if they present well in their kennel, get adopted pretty quickly, she said.

She said she doesn’t want to have to make the decision of which dog to euthanize due to lack of space.

As of Tuesday, the shelter had 15 dogs with room for 30.

Redemptions – when dogs are returned to their owner – has declined as well, Harding said, while euthanasia requests by owners is up.

There have been more dog bites this year, mainly children, which could be the reason for that increase, she said.

Harding will be at Otsego Elementary Wednesday and Maumee Schools Friday to teach dog safety at the school’s safety towns. She also visits schools in December and January with her own dog to teach kids how to approach a dog.

“Kids don’t know that dogs don’t like to be hugged or pull on their hair when they’re trying to get up,” she said.

License sales are down, even as staff go door to door to remind past license holders to renew.

They started in the southern county communities and have seen a large increase in the number of licenses sold, she said.

However, Harding said staff have had doors slammed in their faces, have been warned off the property, and even told a dog identified as a chicken and consequently no license was required.

Either people don’t realize their dog should be licensed or it slips their mind, she said.

Harding encouraged owners who no longer have their dog to call the shelter to get their name removed from the list.

She said she was working on a cost analysis for licenses and redemption fees as neither has increased since 2011 and meanwhile the shelter’s expenses were going up.

“Nothing has been set in stone, it’s just something that I’m working on,” she said.

Licenses can be renewed each year between Dec. 1 and Jan. 31 for $14. The fee after Jan. 31 is $28.

Redemption rates range from free if the dog’s license is on the collar, to $30 for dogs who are licensed but it is not on the dog. If the dog is not licensed, the owner must pay for a license plus the $30 intake fee and $10 daily boarding fee at the time of pickup.

Adoption fees are $89, which includes a license.

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