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Fargo-Moorhead animal shelters brimming with cats, dogs

Hallways double as kennels for one Fargo shelter

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A cat named Ash says hello to visitors to he Homeward Animal Shelter in Fargo. Chris Flynn / The Forum

FARGO — As visitors arrived at the Homeward Animal Shelter in north Fargo, Echo let loose with a string of loud barks.

"Echo," said shelter operations director Heather Clyde as she gently admonished Echo, one of several dogs the shelter is keeping in kennels in a hallway of the shelter.

"This is not where we want to be housing dogs, but this is what we have to do at the moment," Clyde said, noting that while the shelter is most comfortable caring for 100 animals or less, it currently has about 170 animals in its charge, with about 120 of those being cared for by foster families in the community.

"We are kind of at an all-time high," said Heather Klefstad, marketing director for the shelter.

Officials at the shelter said the COVID-19 pandemic is likely one factor for the influx of animals.

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Clyde said many people took in animals while sticking close to home, but now that many are returning to workplaces some no longer want or can care for their animals.

Also, she said, because many people weren't able to have their pets spayed or neutered on the recommended schedule, their animals are now having puppies and kittens, some of which are landing in shelters like Homeward.

Clyde said adoption number dropped about 50% from August to September as many people returned to workplaces. And while adoption numbers have rebounded somewhat since then, she said it hasn't been enough to keep up with the number of animals coming into the shelter, which is located at 1201 28th Ave. N., in Fargo.

The shelter is currently closed to the public, but Klefstad and Clyde stressed they are always looking for families to adopt animals as well as foster families to provide temporary care.

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The Homeward Animal Shelter in Fargo is resorting to kenneling some dogs in a hallway as it deals with animal numbers higher than they've seen before. Chris Flynn / The Forum

Those looking to adopt an animal or to become a foster home can start the process by visiting the shelter's website at www.homewardonline.org.

The situation is similar at CATS Cradle Shelter in Fargo , according to Gail Ventzke, executive director.

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"We try to keep it under 60 (animals) on site, but we have about 100 in foster care as well," Ventzke said, adding that shelter numbers tend to rise as winter arrives because people who watched as cats had kittens in their yards during the warmer months decide to bring them to the pound when temperatures turn cold.

"We end up with a lot of scared cats that need socializing, it would be better if they brought them in when they are younger," Ventzke said, adding that people who want to volunteer as foster families or adopt can start the process by visiting the shelter's website at www.catscradleshelter.org.

While Ventzke said new foster families are always welcome, she stressed that before someone volunteers they should really take the time to educate themselves on what the job requires of them, including having an extra room to keep an animal in and having the time and flexibility to make sure an animal can make required medical visits on a set schedule.

"They have to be able to transport (an animal) and come on time, if they don't stay on schedule we have to start all over," Ventzke said, referring to things like deworming and vaccination schedules.

For all the work that comes with caring for an animal, Ventzke said there's an upside, too.

"Especially with some of the scared cats," Ventzke said. "When you take a scared cat into a foster situation and you see it go from that unsocialized, fearful state and then all of a sudden the cat is sitting in your lap and you see this cat can become a pet. It's very rewarding."

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