SJ Animal Care Center sees 5-year high in deaths after record-setting capacity at shelter

Dustin Dorsey Image
Saturday, December 23, 2023
SJ Animal Care Center sees 5-year high in pet deaths
Hundreds of animals at San Jose Animal Care and Services did not find a new home this year, but instead are dying in the shelter.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- With the turn of the New Year days away, San Jose Animal Care and Services staff, partners and volunteers hope it brings a new beginning, as well.

2023 is recognized across the board as a harrowing year for the shelter, with jarring over-capacity numbers and tragic animal death statistics.

Hundreds of animals at San Jose Animal Care and Services did not find a new home this year, but instead are dying in the shelter.

Current and former volunteers are concerned about the safety of the animals.

"It's just terribly, terribly frustrating," Mike Wagner said.

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"It's sickening. It's so disturbing," Jennifer Flick said.

"It makes me so sad that animals are suffering, being euthanized, dying in their kennels and it's unneeded," Rebekah Davis-Matthew said.

Their concern is warranted, as a year-end report released by the shelter shows 426 animals died while in shelter care during the last fiscal year - a five-year high.

Compounding this problem was over population in the shelter - some 11,000 animals all year, and nearly 950 animals at one time during the peak, which is more than double operating capacity.

City of San Jose Director of Public Works Matt Loesch says the over-crowding forced the shelter to only accept mostly sick and injured animals that contributed to the high mortality rate.

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"We really had some really dire cases of animals that this was really their last resort and we're trying to find that bridge," Loesch said. "Some of them, we're trying to give a chance so we're not euthanizing - so our euthanasia numbers are down. Overall, those animals in the critical, challenging states, we had a really positive outcome for many of them."

Current and former volunteers we spoke with tell a different story, highlighting issues with mismanagement regarding the care of the animals and a new rescue policy of focusing more on adoptions than rescues.

Town Cats Board of Directors member Nineveh Parker says only a fraction of the animals in the shelter that need to be rescued are available for partners like her group to take in to help reduce capacity and save lives.

"I'm not sure why they decided to move away with rescues, but that model worked very well. And now, we're seeing the outcome of what happens when they don't rely on the rescue model," Parker said.

The shelter is undergoing an audit requested by the city and the results should be released in the New Year.

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