MANATEE -- In the two months Beth Lewis has been at Manatee County Animal Services, the current situation is the worst she's seen.
With almost 140 dogs in the Palmetto shelter, which is intended for 80 dogs, the shelter manager describes the situation as "beyond critical."
"It's getting worse by the moment," Lewis said Monday.
Every day animals are brought into the shelter for multiple reasons, including strays, owner surrenders and confiscations. In addition to the large number of dogs, the shelter is overflowing with cats.
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As the county shelter, Lewis said they are required to take in stray animals.
"We are really struggling, trying to be creative, trying to get some leads on getting dogs up north," Lewis said.
Since the Palmetto shelter, 305 25th St. W., Palmetto, doesn't get foot traffic, Lewis said they are looking for help from rescues, who are located in all areas of the county.
Rescues allow the community to "view dogs in different locations that we aren't able to do," Lewis said.
The shelter is also running a number of specials to encourage adoptions. Eight hard luck hounds, whose adoption fees have been paid, remain at the shelter and these dogs are now labeled so the public will know. From now until Sept. 7, all veterans and ac
tive duty military can adopt dogs for free, except for the county's license fee of $15. The shelter is also running half-price adoptions -- $40 for regular adoptions, $25 if the dog has been at the shelter for more than 30 days, $15 if more than 60 days and $10 if heartworm positive.
"We are really trying everything, trying to think out of the box," Lewis said.
Lewis said they are looking for fosters for two months to help train them and find out what the dog is like in a home atmosphere.
Animals give "unconditional love," Lewis said. "Animals are so much better than people a lot of the time. They just need some help. We have to step up and do this."
But the situation in Manatee County is not unique. Lewis said similar situations are happening at shelters across the state.
"It's that time of year," Lewis said. "It happens at every shelter across the U.S."
With less-crowded situations at shelters up north, Lewis said the shelter is concentrating on finding ways to get dogs there.
The overcrowded situation at the shelter could cause animals to develop upper respiratory infections, Lewis said. While they don't have that now, there is the risk, she added.
"With the conditions right now, the animals are going to start getting sick because there are just too many and that's just not OK," she said. "With us being this crowded, it is something we have to be really careful of."
The shelter's two-day adoption event on Aug. 1-2 at the Bradenton Area Convention Center needs to be a success, Lewis said.
"We keep plugging away," Lewis said. "We are hanging in there to try to make things better. We just need everyone's support. My staff is working their little hearts out when trying to take care of these animals."
If interested in adopting or fostering a dog, call the shelter at 941-742-5933, ext. 8319.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.