‘Filled to the brim’: Philly’s only open-intake animal shelter is in desperate need of adopters, fosters

“It's the first time in ages we are being left with decisions of euthanizing for space,” said Sarah Barnett, “which is something we never thought would really happen again."

Mosley the dog looks pensive for the camera

Mosley, an "adorable blockhead" pup, came to ACCT Philly as a stray. (ACCT Philly)

Philadelphia’s only open-intake animal shelter is filled beyond capacity, and faces tough decisions if intake continues to outpace adoption.

“We’re filled to the brim with dogs,” said Sarah Barnett, co-executive director of the city’s Animal Care and Control Team. “We’ve had over 100 dogs here, and dogs are just coming in every single day. So we’re really looking for people to adopt and foster.”

Sarah has her mask knocked down by Gillagan the dog
Sarah Barnett, interim executive director of ACCT Philly, has her mask knocked down by Gillagan in December 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The shelter is designed to house just 80 dogs. On last Friday alone, 21 dogs came to the shelter, Barnett said, and more are being brought in every day.

On top of dogs, ACCT is overflowing with cats, Barnett said. The organization is playing “musical kennels,” rotating animals into offices and meeting rooms due to lack of space in the main shelter area.

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The shelter desperately seeks adopters and fosters to avoid having to euthanize animals over lack of space.

“We’ve been forced over the past six, seven months to make some really difficult decisions,” she said. “It’s the first time in ages that we are being left with decisions of euthanizing for space, which is something that we never thought would really happen again.

Shelter officials say it’s often tough to find adoptive or foster homes for animals over the holidays. Dogs with minor behavioral issues who would normally have to wait longer to find the right home may not be afforded that time because space is so limited.

Spartacus the dog is seen playing outside at ACCT Philly.
Spartacus came to ACCT Philly after his human passed away and no family members could take over his care. (ACCT Philly)

Decisions over euthanasia are determined, in part, by how long animals have been at the shelter.

“We call it time-stamping because it’s a way for us to promote to the public and to make sure the public is aware that these are the most at-risk animals for euthanasia,” Barnett said. “Normally that is something done for medical or behavioral reasons, but lately we’ve also had to timestamp animals for space.”

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As of writing, at least nine dogs are timestamped for euthanasia.

Spartacus the dog is seen with Sarah Barnett in her office at ACCT Philly
Spartacus is currently staying in Barnett’s office, because there is no room at the shelter. (ACCT Philly)

To reduce the number of animals coming into the shelter, Barnett asks people who come across a stray animal to first search for a potential owner. Residents may file a found animal report to ACCT, and are encouraged to post to social media and lost pet sites before turning to the shelter

ACCT also encourages residents microchip their pets so that, in the event they become lost, they can be easily returned to their human.

In addition to looking for adoptive or foster homes, ACCT seeks donations to help care for the animals. Although ACCT receives funding through the Philadelphia Managing Director’s Office, the city has long been criticized for its chronic underfunding of the shelter.

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