“Bursting at the seams’: Nebraska Humane Society experiencing capacity crisis

NHS says all but two of its dog kennels are full -- including overflow space.
The Nebraska Humane Society is in a capacity crisis -- and if adopters don't come through, they may have to turn animals away.
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 10:19 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Nebraska Humane Society is facing a crisis situation, and if they don’t get relief soon, they may have to start turning pets and animals away.

Right now, dogs like Hazel, Phat Boy, and Rex are considered lucky to have what is hoped to be a temporary stay at the Nebraska Humane Society.

“Currently we have 274 total dog kennels which include overflow kennels, and currently we have 272 of those kennels full,” says Pam Wiese with NHS.

Wiese says the shelter desperately needs foster homes and adopters, especially as the facility continues to take in strays, animals from court cases, and those confiscated by animal control.

She says typically, cats are the animal that the shelter is overflowing with, but this time it’s dogs.

“This is not our typical busy season and so we’re really working on trying to strategically figure out what we’re going to do in the summer,” she adds.

Wiese says the length of stay for each dog is increasing, including for puppies. Typically, puppies are adopted out in a matter of hours. Lately, they’ve been staying in the shelter for several days.

“Adoptions have slowed and animals continue to come into shelters and people are not adopting at the rate they once did,” Wiese adds.

And it’s not just the humane society.

“I have 292 active volunteers, so that is what our current number is at with about 215 animals under our umbrella,” said Isaiah Langworthy with Muddy Paws Second Chance Rescue.

Langworthy says the number of dogs they’re re-homing and fostering is skyrocketing.

“Muddy Paws is averaging 15 calls a day for owner surrenders, some days that’s less and some days that more, and countless inquiries on our website for owner surrenders,” he adds.

Both Langworthy and Wiese say there are several reasons why they believe the trend is happening both locally and nationally.

“People got dogs during COVID and now are going through moves or returning back to the office or life just kind of came back and it’s like ‘oh no, we don’t have time for this dog’,” Langworthy says.

“In terms of looking into what’s happening nationwide, and talking to other shelters and talking to people who need to surrender pets, the economy is playing a huge role, inflation is high, costs are high,” Wiese says. “If you’re paying $400 more a month for groceries, you may not be in the mood to adopt a dog and if you have a pet you may be looking say wow, I can’t afford to feed my kids and feed my pet, what has to give.”

Langworthy also says that dogs that are not spayed or neutered are being surrendered because vet clinics are backed up for several months with appointments.

Both Langworthy and Wiese say the most helpful thing the community can do if they’re able, is to become a foster home for dogs, so the Humane Society and other rescues can continue to take in new pets and not have to turn animals away.

Fostering does three helpful things, Wiese says.

“It gets them out of the shelter, it gets us more information about what they’re like in a home situation, and it gets them in front of other people in order to be adopted, so it’s really a wonderful way to work, and use the entire community to showcase the animal to help get them adopted.”

And even better, adopt if you can.

“There’s such a variety of animals there, there are so many dogs that are available that we probably have somebody that’s going to fit your personality and lifestyle if you just are patient enough to look, and if you really want a dog right now,” Wiese adds.

Dogs available for adoption can be viewed on the Nebraska Humane Society website.

The application to be an emergency foster home for pets is available.