A non-profit organization called Help for Homeless Pets has been serving Billings for over 20 years, but they've never had so many homeless animals as they do right now.
According to Help for Homeless Pets Director Angie Cook, the kennels at their shelter are beyond capacity. So much so, that they actually have to put animals on a waiting list before they can be accepted inside.
“We’ve never really been in such a position where we’ve had to turn one down,” Cook said.
It's a position that the no-kill shelter has never been in, and one Cook believes the Covid-19 pandemic, among other things, played a huge part in creating.
“People are going back to work, and they can't care for their animals," Cook said. "There’s a lot of people moving, or things like that. We’ve definitely seen a bigger surplus of animals coming in."
It's left the shelter hard pressed to find room for any new animals. A problem that Shelter Operations Manager Ashley Burling said is intensified during the winter.
“We’ve had a waiting list for quite a while for people that want to surrender, need to surrender," Burling said. "It’s harder in the wintertime. We have less housing here because we can’t keep the dogs outside."
Burling also said that the shelter is still completing many successful adoptions, but that animals are being dropped at their front door — leaving them no option but to bring them inside.
“Drop offs include tying them to the front door before we open, shoving kittens through the door before hours, leaving them out in boxes,” Burling said.
The non-profit is now trying to fundraise so that they can improve the kennels and allow more animals inside. It's a big change that the owners said is long overdue.
“The dog kennels we use are well over 20 years old," Burling said. "A lot of them we have to patch them and re-patch them, but you can only patch them so much. It’s definitely time for the safety and well-being of the dogs."
And at the end of the day, their primary focus is on keeping the animals comfortable at their shelter — for what they hope is always a short stay.
“People ask a lot if it’s sad or hard working at a shelter, and I’d say it’s just the opposite because we get to see them all go home,” Burling said.