Nancy Edmonds Hanson
Local animal rescue organizations are calling it a crisis – an influx of homeless dogs that threatens to overwhelm the community’s ability to care for them and match them with homes.
Moorhead-based 4 Luv of Dog, like its counterparts Homeward Animal Shelter and Adopt-a-Pet, is beyond capacity at its volunteer-staffed facility, along with some 100 puppies and adults now in foster care with its corps of volunteers.
“Local pounds have had a huge influx of dogs – not only now, but for the past several years,” Amy Gore notes. One of 4 Luv of Dogs’ five foster coordinators, she is caring for two of that overload of canines herself, along with her two resident dogs, and continues to search for more foster homes.
The problem is not unique to Fargo-Moorhead. National organizations are citing the same situation virtually from coast to coast – numbers of dogs seeking placement that have easily doubled since the pandemic.
“The numbers have been building for the past year,” says Katie Paseka, a building volunteer who serves as secretary of the 4 Luv of Dog board. She works full-time at Prairie Supply, but also puts in 25 to 30 hours a week at the shelter.“Three years ago, we were getting 60 to 80 dogs every month. Now it’s over 100.” Her nonprofit alone fostered or adopted out 569 pooches in 2023, almost double the total of 360 in the year prior to the pandemic. “That’s almost two new dogs every day to be fostered or safely cared for in our shelter,” she points out. “In the last 12 days, we’ve taken 17 into foster homes, and 17 have been adopted.”
Amy suggests that no one reason explains the exponential increase in numbers “Rescues had to suspend their spay-and-neuter clinics during the pandemic – resulting in more puppies. People who were working at home adopted animals to keep them company, but now they are back at work and don’t have as much time. Inflation and job changes have made caring for pets more expensive.” But age-old issues continue to swell the numbers – stray dogs, injured animals and lost pets who are never reclaimed. Some are simply surrendered by owners who don’t want them or can no longer care for them.
For one reason or another, then, the city pounds in Moorhead, Fargo and West Fargo are overflowing. Rescues gather the animals whose owners don’t claim them and make them available for adoption. No dog has been euthanized in this community within recent memory, except for a few with injuries or severe medical issues who couldn’t be saved.
Established in 2005, the nonprofit 4 Luv of Dog has no paid staff; all of its services, from daily care of canines in its own facility (where they regularly outnumber its housing capacity of seven) and fostering to all the administrative duties of operating what is, in fact, an animal welfare agency. Some 200 individuals and families have volunteered to care for dogs recovering from trauma and waiting for permanent homes. Others take turns filling out three shifts a day at the shelter – feeding, walking, playing and socializing with the waiting hounds. More volunteers are always welcome, especially for weekend and holiday slots as summer settles in.
“We’re all such crazy dog people,” Amy – who teaches English by day at North Dakota State University – admits with a smile. “It’s just a great group of people with a heart to make a change in the lives of these dogs. They’re always ready to go above and beyond. They have such generous hearts.”
As a nonprofit with no public funding and little grant support, 4 Luv of Dog’s need for support has grown as its canine census balloons. Without regular staffing to deal with potential adopters and fosters face to face, it uses its website – www.4luvofdog.org – as its main public contact. It features a colorful catalog of all the canines currently available for adoption. Puppies and small dogs, Amy says, tend to quickly attract interest. Larger dogs sometimes wait much longer.
Along with its roster of furry, four-legged orphans waiting to catch a pet parent’s eye, the site includes applications to foster and to adopt dogs, as well as a donation page.
“Our dogs are waiting for people with generous hearts,” Amy emphasizes. “Everyone can help in one way or another. There are always more dogs in need than we’re able to care for.
“If you can, adopt. If you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t foster, volunteer. And if you can’t volunteer, donate.”