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Charlotte reduces time people have to petition for return of seized animals

A dog eagerly awaits adoption in an animal shelter.
A dog eagerly awaits adoption in an animal shelter.

Charlotte residents whose animals are seized by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Animal Care and Control will have less time to petition a court for their return as the shelter tries to reduce overcrowding.

Animal care officials at Mecklenburg County’s main shelter have called overcrowding a crisis this year, as a COVID-19-driven surge in pet adoptions dries up. To help free up space, the Charlotte City Council on Monday approved reducing the amount of time animal owners have to ask a court to return seized animals from 30 days to 10. Animal Care and Control Director Joshua Fisher said the current time limit leaves animals waiting unnecessarily.

"In the 30 days when an animal’s waiting for that to be filed, it’s just sitting in a cage. And that’s something I can say, in the eight years that I’ve been here, we’ve seen two that have been appealed," said Fisher. "So we have a lot of animals sitting in a cage unnecessarily."

The animals in question are those permanently seized because of alleged abuse or harmful conditions. Owners have to file an appeal with Superior Court if they want the animal back. After that, Animal Care and Control can either euthanize the animal, give it to new owners for adoption or give the animal to a rescue organization.

Earlier this year, animal control officials said there were 177 dogs and puppies in the shelter, located near Charlotte's airport. Of those, 44 were being held pending court cases, rabies quarantines or other reasons. The number of cats and dogs taken in atthe shelter is up 17% in 2022 compared to the previous year.

Charlotte City Council also approved $4.7 million for improvements at the shelter. Future renovations could include an expansion of the facility.

Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston said an expansion is badly needed, and the shelter is "not up to par."

"That facility and that staff was built 20, 25 years ago, and it was built to serve a city's population of about 400,000," Winston said.

Even if animal control can move some seized animals through the shelter more quickly, the capacity crunch is unlikely to relent. The shelter currently says its canine capacity is critical, with no available space.

"The truth is, we don't have a good situation there," said Charlotte City Council member Ed Driggs. "The capacity of that facility is absolutely insufficient ... I think we're past due to do something about the situation over there now."

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Ely Portillo has worked as a journalist in Charlotte for over a decade. Before joining WFAE, he worked at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the Charlotte Observer.