The number of pets surrendered to the shelter run by Loudoun County Animals Services is up by 42% this year as it prepares for its annual “Clear the Shelters” event.


Kittens up for adoption at the Loudoun County Animal Services shelter. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

The number of pets surrendered to the animal shelter has soared this year in Loudoun County, Virginia, as officials prepare for a big push to encourage more people to adopt.

The number of pets surrendered to the shelter run by Loudoun County Animals Services is up by 42% so far this year.

“That’s a huge increase for us,” Melissa Heard, shelter operations manager, told WTOP. “We’re seeing just a lot more pets in general, which means a lot more homes are needed.”

The organization is preparing for its annual “Clear the Shelters” event at which pet adoption fees are waived, which aims to motivate more potential owners to open up their homes to pets needing homes.

As for what’s behind the sharp rise, Heard pointed to a number of factors.

“The cost of vet care has increased — it’s expensive to care for an animal,” she said. “Housing is also one of the major reasons people are surrendering pets. They don’t have a pet friendly place to call home.”

In addition, the number of animals coming to the shelter as the result of animal welfare investigations is also on the rise. So far this year, the shelter has seen 170 animals come into the shelter after being removed from unsafe situations.

Earlier this month, the animal services organization removed 40 cats from a Loudoun County home following a hoarding investigation, which strained the shelter’s resources and led officials there to issue a call for donations of cat food and litter.

The Clear the Shelters event in Loudoun County takes place this weekend. The Leesburg shelter is open Saturday, Aug. 26, and Sunday, Aug. 27, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visitors are asked to arrive by 5 p.m. so they have enough time to process their adoption.

While the organization hopes county residents take them up on the offer to adopt a pet for free, Heard stressed that becoming a pet owner comes with real responsibility.

“Pets make great family members, but they do require daily care,” she said. “They require veterinary care, time and attention.”

Of course, you’re likely to be rewarded with lots of snuggles and sloppy kisses.

“But definitely it’s a commitment,” she added. “And so we want to make sure you’re committed and ready to take on the responsibility of an animal.”

Loudoun County is far from alone in seeing a surge in its shelter population. In Montgomery County, Maryland, officials with the county’s animal services and adoption center said last month they were facing a “crisis” of overcrowding.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

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