Hard times, painful choices
On a recent Friday, Courtney Gumienny, the intake and adoptions supervisor at the Charleston Animal Society, saw 36 animals come in the front doors. Some were feral cats and dogs found by good Samaritans, but many were pets. Though the "sad puppy faces" are hard to handle, the pet owners are the reason the lobby is littered with tissue boxes. Watching people make the difficult decision to give up furry members of their families is the hardest, most emotionally draining part for Gumienny.
When she walks laps around the many chain link cages, a chorus of baying, whimpering and yipping erupts.
She often sighs while glancing at the clipboards that hold each animal's history. Countless boards hold tales of people who no longer could afford to care for their pets. Many former owners endured layoffs, bankruptcy and home foreclosures. Many have to give up their pets in order to move in with family or into smaller apartments where the animals that aren't forbidden require expensive deposits.
With a 6 percent increase in intake since January and more than 300 animals in the shelter, cages remain full, which is much more than Gumienny can say for the shelves of the food bank she runs on Saturdays for owners on government assistance.
Despite their efforts, Gumienny and her army of overworked, increasingly stressed employees and volunteers cannot hope to save every animal. Each day, the veterinarians are forced to euthanize 20 to 50 animals that were not adopted.
She wishes that adoptions were not rapidly decreasing.