May 17, 2024

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SLO County animal shelter needs homes for dogs amid puppy boom

One San Luis Obispo County animal shelter is experiencing a “puppy boom” — and it’s putting out a call for adoptions.

Woods Humane Society, a nonprofit organization that has locations in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero, has taken in 113 unwanted young dogs so far in 2023, according to the group’s communications manager, Jamie Relth.

That’s more than three times the number taken in during the same timeframe the previous year, Woods Humane Society interim CEO Emily L’Heureux said in a news release.

About a fifth of all puppies brought to the shelter this year have been cattle dog-type breeds such as Australian cattle dogs, kelpies and border collies, Relth wrote in an email.

The number of puppies at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero has tripled in 2023 as owners surrender unwanted dogs. Woods CEO Emily L’Heureux holds one of four belonging to a cute “mutt” named Gracie.
The number of puppies at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero has tripled in 2023 as owners surrender unwanted dogs. Woods CEO Emily L’Heureux holds one of four belonging to a cute “mutt” named Gracie. Laura Dickinson The Tribune

The shelter has also seen lots of shepherds and Labrador retrievers, she said, with Chihuahuas, dachshunds, mastiffs, great Pyrenees, huskies and other breeds rounding out the pack.

As of Thursday, the shelter had 24 puppies in its care, including four that will soon be available for adoption, Relth said.

According to Woods, the unexpected increase in puppies means higher costs for the shelter.

“We have budgeted for up to 3,000 animals, including an average of 130 puppies for the year, at an average cost of $406.98 in veterinary care per animal,” L’Heureux said in the release. “If we continue at this rate, though, we are on track to increase our intake of puppies by 229%.”

What has caused this sudden increase in unwanted puppies?

L’Heureux attributed the trend to a lack of access to spay/neuter programs in some communities during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as increases in puppy-breeding programs.

The number of puppies at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero has tripled in 2023 as owners surrender unwanted dogs. Woods CEO Emily L’Heureux introduces four belonging to a cute “mutt” named Gracie.
The number of puppies at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero has tripled in 2023 as owners surrender unwanted dogs. Woods CEO Emily L’Heureux introduces four belonging to a cute “mutt” named Gracie. Laura Dickinson The Tribune

“A couple of years ago, it was nearly impossible to adopt puppies because the demand was so high.,” she said in the release. “As people return to working in the office and as the costs of animal care are rising in the current economy, the tide is turning and now the number of requests for owner surrenders or shelter transports of nursing mothers and puppies has gone up markedly.”

Other local shelters are also seeing “a huge influx of puppies,” Relth said.

“We are fielding daily requests to take in puppies from other shelters or to take in owner-surrendered puppies,” she said.

According to Relth, about half of the puppies in Woods’ care were transported from the San Luis Obispo County Animal Services shelter, while the others were either turned in by their owners or transported from shelters in the Central Valley.

The number of puppies at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero has tripled in 2023 as owners surrender unwanted dogs. Woods CEO Emily L’Heureux holds one of four belonging to a cute “mutt” named Gracie.
The number of puppies at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero has tripled in 2023 as owners surrender unwanted dogs. Woods CEO Emily L’Heureux holds one of four belonging to a cute “mutt” named Gracie. Laura Dickinson The Tribune

How to help

Woods recently offered a $50 adoption special in an effort to find more puppies homes, although that promotion ended Sunday.

Puppies stay an average of three days at the shelter before finding new homes, the release said.

Adoption fees at Woods typically range from $65 for senior cats to $200 for puppies, she said. It costs $150 to adopt an adult dog, and $80 to adopt an adult cat.

All animals available for adoption at the shelter have been spayed or neutered, as well as implanted with microchips, according to Woods’ website. They’ve also been vaccinated for diseases including distemper and rabies in the case of dogs, and have received up-to-date treatment for fleas, ticks, worms and mites.

The number of puppies at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero has tripled in 2023 as owners surrender unwanted dogs.
The number of puppies at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero has tripled in 2023 as owners surrender unwanted dogs. Laura Dickinson The Tribune

Woods will raise money for puppies and other homeless animals in its care during its popular Wine 4 Paws fundraiser on April 22 and 23.

During that weekend, supporters can visit more than 75 wine, cider and olive oil producers throughout SLO County that have pledged to donate 10% of sales to Woods Humane Society.

Donations to help puppies can be made online via WoodsHumane.org/Donate or by texting “WOODS” to 24365.

Woods Humane Society is located at 875 Oklahoma Ave. in San Luis Obispo, and 2300 Ramona Road in Atascadero. Both locations are open to the public daily from noon to 5 p.m., with adoption hours from noon to 4 p.m.

For more information, call 805-543-9316 or visit WoodsHumane.org.

The number of puppies at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero has tripled in 2023 as owners surrender unwanted dogs. Woods CEO Emily L’Heureux holds one of four belonging to a cute “mutt” named Gracie.
The number of puppies at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero has tripled in 2023 as owners surrender unwanted dogs. Woods CEO Emily L’Heureux holds one of four belonging to a cute “mutt” named Gracie. Laura Dickinson The Tribune

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Sarah Linn is the Local/Entertainment Editor of the Tribune in San Luis Obispo, covering movies, television, the arts and the best places to eat and drink in San Luis Obispo County. A graduate of Oregon State University, she has worked for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo for more than a decade and has earned multiple California journalism awards.


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