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Dorchester County animal shelter issues a brief pause on dog intakes

Empty the Shelter adoption event at Dorchester Paws (copy)

Dorchester Paws has issued a temporary moratorium around non-emergent dog intakes until Feb. 14.  File/Brad Nettles/Staff

SUMMERVILLE — Less than five months removed from its last moratorium on intakes, Dorchester County's largest animal shelter is issuing another pause on taking in dogs. 

In its first alert of the year, Dorchester Paws is stopping all non-emergent dog intakes until Feb. 14. These are dogs not in need of emergency medical care. 

Cats are still being accepted. The pause for dogs is meant to reduce their numbers on the shelter's adoption floor.

Since Jan. 1, Dorchester Paws has taken in 160 dogs, a 17 percent increase from the number of dogs they took in last year in the same time frame, stff reported. 

Maddie Moore, the shelter's executive director, said the real concern isn't just that they're taking in more dogs; it's that they're seeing fewer adoptions. 

Since the beginning of the year they've taken in 317 animals, while only recording 191 adoptions. 

"This creates a bottleneck where we are intaking more animals than we are adopting out," she said. 

The intake comes despite the shelter continuously lowering its adoption prices. All dog adoption fees were recently lowered from $20 to $14 until Feb. 14. 

Each animal is still utilizing $250 in shelter resources, according to staff. 

"Adopt, so we can continue to be a no-kill shelter," Moore said. "Foster, so we can open up space to save an additional life."

Dorchester Paws can house 80 dogs. When they have more than that, staff has to start placing metal crates along the hallway. This means staff members spend more time cleaning and less time giving the dogs enrichment and play time. 

Part of Dorchester Paws' vision around ending unnecessary euthanasia involves continued support from the community. 

The recent rise in animal intakes is another symptom Dorchester County growth. In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the county had a population of over 136,000. That number grew to more than 160,000 in 2020. 

According to Moore, Shelters Planners for America predicted that their animal intake for 2021 would be a little over 3,460. They ended up taking in nearly 4,000 animals last year. 

So now shelter staff and volunteers are looking to the community for support.

"That's really how we thrive," said Erin Sullivan, Dorchester Paws' board chairman. "We encourage people to come out." 

Dorchester Paws staff said a fear at any shelter is having to euthanize for space. This is something Dorchester Paws hasn't done since 2017 when they joined No Kill SC. 

"That impending threat is why we put temporary moratoriums in place so we don't have to make those hard decisions just yet," Moore said. 

Dorchester Paws is located just off U.S. Highway 78 in the outskirts of Summerville. For more information about adopting, donating or fostering, supporters are encouraged to go to dorchesterpaws.org.

The organization recently purchased land for a new shelter at the corner of U.S. Highway 17A and Central Avenue in downtown Summerville. 

The current location frequently falls victim to flooding and repair needs. Staff said they will need continued donations from the community to finalize the new space. 

Reach Jerrel Floyd at 843-937-5558. Follow him on Twitter @jfloyd134.