COLUMBIANA, Ala. (WIAT) — The Shelby County Humane Society is facing an overcapacity issue, which could lead to the shelter changing its “no-kill” policy.

SCHS is at 160% capacity, currently housing over 80 dogs more than the “suggested capacity” for the shelter. The agency serves as animal control for all of Shelby County, as well as the cities of Hoover and Vestavia Hills.

Many other shelters across the U.S. are also facing overcrowding, with reports of a combination of low adoption and high owner surrender rates possibly due to job losses, staffing shortages and inflation.

SCHS also maintains a 97% “live release” rate, which further stretches resources thin with the shelter’s limited space. Board President Saundra Ivey says the situation has not been easy to navigate.

“Our goal would be to get most animals out in 40 or 50 days but we’ve got some that are way beyond that,” Ivey said. “And that’s probably what’s led to us being overcrowded is this group that we’ve had such a hard time getting adopted, and so it’s kind of like, what do you do with those?”

Ivey says there are a lot of factors as to why some of their dogs, especially seniors, aren’t being adopted out.

“Some of them are harder to adopt because maybe they don’t like cats or this one doesn’t like other dogs so it has to go in a family that has no dogs or cats, or maybe it isn’t friendly towards children,” Ivey said. “So we have to be particular about who might get that dog because we don’t want it to cause problems with families.”

While the main priority lies with getting these dogs adopted, Ivey says another way locals can help is by fostering and volunteering in ways from donating newspapers to cleaning to even socializing with the dogs.

“If I could get volunteers that could help us walk dogs because the dogs that are there need to get out and get in the sunshine and walk. I need enough volunteers for that,” Ivey said.

As spring begins to blossom, Ivey hopes bringing public awareness to the issue will bring more visitors and volunteers to the shelter to lend a helping hand.

“We’re just in the beginning of puppy and kitten season, so when that happens we really get full because people can bring in litters of 12 puppies,” Ivey said. “So that’s why right now is such an important time or urgent time to get some of these older timers out just to make room because if we can get the population down, we can provide better quality care.”

To sign up to foster, volunteer or see which dogs are available for adoption, visit the Shelby County Humane Society’s website. Dogs with the tag “adoption fee sponsored” have their adoption fee waived due to their senior status.