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SAVE - Adopt, Volunteer, Foster, Donate

By Sahana Karthik | Posted on March 9, 2023

Isla is an adorable, energetic little puppy with dark brown hair and the cutest eyes. She is an ‘island dog,’ meaning she is from Puerto Rico. Isla was rescued from the island and brought to SAVE animal shelter. She is a couple of weeks old and has no applications for adoption so far. Unfortunately, this seems to be the trend that animal shelters are seeing with a decrease in adoptions. Puppies are often the easiest to get adopted, yet even they have no applications.

Mariah (South River) and Honeybee (Hopewell) are both local strays brought to SAVE by animal control, and they were not reclaimed by their owners.

SAVE is a private animal shelter on Route 601, close to the Montgomery High School. They are a shelter for both cats and dogs, and they have the capacity to hold 25 dogs in the shelter at one time. Right now, all 25 spots are filled. This is a dramatic change from 2020. At the beginning of the pandemic, SAVE would never be full.

According to Heather Achenbach, the Executive Director of SAVE, “[SAVE] couldn’t stay full. We couldn’t get enough animals in here, and it was dogs, cats, everything was adopted... we would [go] two, three weeks at a time where we were low. And then the minute we would have animals, they’d all be gone again.”

In 2020, many people were encouraged to get pets because they were at home. If you had always wanted a pet, many decided that it was the best time to get one. SAVE adopted over 800 pets to their forever homes. Then going into 2021, there was an almost complete stop of adoptions. That year, SAVE had less than 500 pets getting adopted, a marked decline.

In 2022, there was a slight increase, but still nothing near the numbers adopted in 2020. Along with this substantial decrease in the number of pets being adopted, there is also an increase in both unclaimed strays and surrenders. Jack Griffin, the Director of Operations, discussed this, saying, “Just in the last six to seven weeks, we have seen a dramatic uptick in strays, which are animals found by animal control officers with no owner claiming ownership. So they come to [SAVE] for seven days. If they are not reclaimed, then we place them up for adoption.”

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Usually, the reclaim rate is quite high for dogs, around 80%, but recently it has decreased to less than 20% of dogs being reclaimed. In the last two weeks, there had been only two reclaims; the rest stayed with the shelter. Many of the dogs found definitely had owners and were well cared for. They are also often purebreds which indicates that they were likely bought.

Since SAVE is a private shelter, they often take dogs from other shelters in the area, but they are unable to do so nowadays because they are completely full. Under state law, other public shelters have to take whatever dogs are surrendered, so they have double or triple the number of animals. There are some basic things that should be considered before getting a dog, like what veterinarians are in the area.

Some veterinarians are full, and they are not accepting new patients. Others, for example, may only see new cats. This is incredibly important right now because of a national shortage of veterinarians. You should also research the energy level, size, and other information about a dog breed to make an informed decision. It is crucial to know, up front, how much work a dog is before getting one.

“When it comes to animal welfare, it goes into four buckets. It’s the adopt, volunteer, foster, donate,” Ms. Achenbach said regarding what people in the community can do to help. “If we can get more people to adopt, we make more space. We need more help; that means we need volunteers. We need fosters because, if we can have some of these animals stay in your house instead of the shelter, then we can save more lives…funding is also an important factor.”

It is critical for the broader Montgomery community to know this, as many have not heard of these problems or might not know that SAVE is even there. Our furry family members are a huge part of our lives and our community, and it is great to know that there are people looking out for them.


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