Jacksonville’s no-kill pet shelters are dangerously close to running out of room, meaning they’ll have to give up their no-kill policy and euthanize animals for space.


Jacksonville’s two pet shelters, the city-run Animal Care and Protective Services Department and the non-profit Jacksonville Humane Society, have about 1,800 pets between the two of them, about twice as many as they can comfortable manage, administrators said. Several hundred are being fostered in First Coast homes.

Nikki Harris, animal care chief at the city’s Animal Care and Protective Services Department, said the city’s shelters have been stretching capacity for weeks. If they can’t get the shelter populations down to a manageable number, they’ll have to start looking at euthanasia again, she said.

“Every day, its a possibility for that day. We’ve been running in crisis mode for the last three weeks,” she said.

Jacksonville became a no-kill county this year after the city shelter, the Jacksonville Humane Society and the non-profit First Coast No More Homeless Pets banded together to get the city to a no-kill status, said Denise Deisler, executive director of the Jacksonville Humane Society. No kill means 90 percent of the pets that go into the shelter leave alive, and pets are only euthanized for health or behavioral reasons, not for space concerns.

Slideshow: Plenty of pets waiting for you

This is the first year those organizations hoped to achieve this no-kill status.

The city’s shelter has about 500 animals in their shelter and 600 in foster care. There are 400 kittens. The Jacksonville Humane Society has more than 700 animals, including about 450 kittens.

To keep shelters afloat, staff has encouraged families to foster animals, sent animals to private boarding facilities and shifted around kennel space.

“We are as full as it gets,” Deisler said.

While these shelters are desperate to have these animals adopted, administrators said they expected this unavoidable overcrowding.

Both shelters are overrun with kittens, Harris said. Cats start giving birth to litters in the spring, and they can give birth about every 60 days.

“Starting in the spring, we just see constant waves of cats because of how quickly they can reproduce,” she said.

Both shelters also see a spike in dogs during the summer because some families give their dog up to a shelter when they move or go on a long vacation, Deisler said.

Dogs also show up at shelters just after the Fourth of July because dogs that get spooked by fireworks sometimes run out of their yards and get lost, said Rick DuCharme, CEO of First Coast No More Homeless Pets.

Despite the difficulties, DuCharme said he believe the shelters will be able to keep their heads above water to maintain their goals since Jacksonville is an adoption-friendly community.

“We knew the months of June, July and August would be the most difficult,” he said. “I have no doubt at all that we can sustain no-kill.”

Harris said the best way to help these shelters is to adopt, especially at a large adoption event happening next week.

The First Coast No More Homeless Pets Mega Pet Adoption Event takes place 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 18 through July 20 at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds, 510 Fairground Place.

Shelter administrators hope to have several hundred animals adopted at this event.

Deisler said the shelters are hoping to hang on until the adoption event, which they’re hoping will free up enough space at the shelters to relieve the possibility of euthanasia.


Meredith Rutland: (904) 359-4161