Pictured, from left, are co-founders of the organization 'Who Will Let the Dogs Out?' Nancy Slattery and Cara Achterberg at the Lewis-Upshur Animal Control facility Monday. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Two animal shelter activists who want to know ‘Who Will Let the Dogs Out?’ shine a spotlight on overpopulation at LUAC

BUCKHANNON – The co-founders of ‘Who Will Let the Dogs Out?’ aim to bring national attention to local shelters and help the animals who live there. 

Co-founders of the Woodstock-based Virginia-based organization WWLDO Cara Achterberg and Nancy Slattery visited the Lewis-Upshur Animal Control Facility Monday during one of their multi-state trips to different shelters.

“Our mission has been to raise awareness and resources for places like this — little, under-resourced, municipal shelters, where there are good people that are scrambling nonstop, but that’s not a sustainable situation,” Achterberg said. “It’s working because you have wonderful people, but what happens when those wonderful people get tired because the situation is not changing?”

Achterberg said she previously fostered dogs, but before she started visiting shelters, she had no idea how bad the situation was.

“I have fostered over 100 dogs, and I thought, ‘Wow, how is it that I never realized shelters were in the situation they’re in?”’ Achterberg said. “Our mission is to tell people, so they want to get involved and want to come and be a part of the organizations that are saving these animals.”

Achterberg and Slattery highlight animals at the shelters they visit on their social media and recently made a documentary film about a shelter in western Tennessee.

“We just want to know the story, we want to know what’s happening here, and we’ll help out any way we can,” Achterberg said. “We’ll share these dogs who have been here a little bit longer on our social media. We have lots of donations in the truck to leave at all the shelters we visit, and we’ll connect them with our grants advisor, who can work with them to try to get grants.”

A volunteer liaison will stay in touch with LUAC after their initial visit.

“She will basically keep up with what’s going on here and just keep us updated because we’ve been to over 100 shelters now,” Achterberg said. “We’re national now; we have people all over the country, so she will let us know when something’s happening, something good or bad.”

LUAC has been experiencing a spike in animal surrenders – meaning pet owners who voluntarily surrender their animals – and all the kennels are constantly full, but Achterberg said that seems to be the case everywhere.

“That’s all over the country right now; it is the perfect storm, and it all goes back to the pandemic, and it’s not just that people adopted dogs irresponsibly. A lot of the other things happened like we didn’t have spay-and-neuter for a period of time – about six months to a year in some places – and that is a ripple effect we’re going to feel for a while,” Achterberg said.

“During the pandemic, everybody wanted a puppy, so all these backyard breeders and puppy mills ramped up, and they haven’t stopped, so we’re continuing to see the biggest puppy season ever right now,” she added. “Everywhere we go, they are euthanizing puppies, and when you’re euthanizing puppies, you know it’s bad – really bad.”

Achterberg said the statistics for euthanizing dogs went up for the first time in decades in 2022, and she believes it will be even higher in 2023.

“Everybody can do something,” she said. “We started doing this because I wanted to help, I saw it, and it was horrible. I was already fostering, but I wanted to help, and the only skill I have is writing. Nancy would say the only skill she has is photography, so we took what we had, and we’re using it to help the situation because I feel it’s such a fixable problem, and it shouldn’t be going on. It’s been solved in big portions of this country, and it can be solved here, too; people have got to get involved and show up.”

More information about Who Will Let the Dogs Out can be found on their Facebook page or website.

Lewis-Upshur Animal Control staff member Christy Rutter said they are currently at maximum capacity for cats and are nearing those levels for dogs.

“We can legally hold 32 dogs, and we have 27 because I just got another [owner] surrender in,” Rutter said. “We don’t want to use the overflows [overflow areas] unless we absolutely have to because of the heat index. We probably have at least 35 to 40 cats right now; I’m so over capacity on the cats, and people keep wanting to bring them in.”

The facility is also going through about a case of wet cat food a day and could use donations.

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