Over capacity, Companion Animal Alliance waives adoption fees with ‘Empty the Shelters’ event

This story was updated Tuesday, May 10, to reflect the extended timeline of the event.

If you’ve considered adopting a dog or cat, this week would be a great time to do it, says Baton Rouge’s official animal shelter, Companion Animal Alliance. The shelter’s numbers are over capacity, and the agency is partnering with a national foundation to waive adoption fees for would-be pet parents.

CAA’s number of animals dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic when spending more time at home inspired many people to foster or adopt dogs and cats.

But for reasons not yet fully understood, the numbers have crept back up. CAA is currently relying on temporary kennels to hold overflow animals, says CAA Director of Grants and Communication Emily Lemoine. Additional adoptable animals are being cared for in the community by foster program volunteers, she adds.

“We’re at critical capacity,” Lemoine says. “We have more dogs than kennels by a lot.”

The incentive program is called “Empty the Shelters,” and it’s funded by the Bissel Pet Foundation. CAA announced on May 9 that it would be extending the event through May 15.

BPF reimburses participating shelters $100 per dog and $50 per cat to enable them to reduce or waive their fees. Last year, BPF donated $2.5 million to 245 shelters across the country, impacting 15,297 animals, the foundation reports.

Lemoine speculates the increase has to do with behavior changes in the post-pandemic return to normal.

Owner surrenders are particularly high now. In 2021, CAA took in 1,699 owner surrenders, Lemoine says. As of May 1 of this year, the number was 496, an approximately 40% increase from the same time last year when the shelter accepted 298 owner surrenders.

“We are on track to take in much more than last year,” Lemoine says. “We don’t yet know why it’s so high. It’s too early to determine the exact reason.”

As of the beginning of this month, CAA had 293 dogs in its shelter and 171 kennels, Lemoine says.

Those interested in pet adoption this week can get started by perusing photos and descriptions of animals in the area listed on Adopt-a-Pet, PetFinder and CAA’s Facebook page. CAA is also open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to drop by and meet animals. The shelter has indoor and outdoor areas for individuals and families to meet and play with potential pets to ensure they’re good fits.

A nonprofit, CAA opened in 2010 to help increase Baton Rouge’s then-abysmal save rate of shelter animals. At the time CAA opened, the city’s save rate was at 20%, a rate that has now increased to 89%. To be considered an “no kill” shelter, a shelter must demonstrate a 90% or higher save rate.

Euthanizing animals only happens in extreme cases, Lemoine says, and is usually based on medical issues, aggression and, in rare instances, the shelter’s lack of capacity. CAA is now at the point where some animals will be euthanized due to space, Lemoine says.

“It’s not easy and it’s not fun to talk about,” Lemoine says. “If the public is discouraged about that, then we are 100% discouraged by it. We’re all animal lovers here.”

Even if you miss this week’s opportunity for waived adoption fees, note that CAA has also recently implemented standing fee discounts based on the length of an animal’s stay in the shelter.

For more information about the Empty the Shelters event, which runs May 2 though May 15, contact caabr.org.