The Coast News Group
Zelda is currently up for adoption at the county’s Animal Services’ North Shelter in Carlsbad. Photo by Samantha Nelson
Zelda is currently up for adoption at the county’s Animal Services’ North Shelter in Carlsbad. Photo by Samantha Nelson
CarlsbadCarlsbad FeaturedCitiesCommunityDel MarEncinitasEscondidoNewsOceansideRancho Santa FeSan DiegoSan MarcosSolana BeachVista

Crowded animal shelters seek more foster, adoptive families

CARLSBAD — As animal shelters nationwide continue to struggle with overcrowding, local shelters in San Diego County are actively seeking new adoptive and foster families to ease the strain.

According to San Diego County Animal Services, more dogs are being brought into its Carlsbad and Bonita-based shelter locations and fewer are being adopted out.  Last year, county shelters took in more than 5,700 animals, and more than 5,100 were adopted or returned to their owners.

A variety of factors have led to overcrowding, including a challenging economy and housing shortages for many families. Many households have been forced to downsize into homes that either don’t allow pets or have limitations, including what dog breeds are allowed and financial barriers like pet rent, thus leading families to the difficult decision to relinquish their canine companions into the shelter system. 

The rising cost of food and veterinary care is also a factor for some families. According to San Diego County Animal Services Assistant Director Carl Smith, the shelters hope to help families in whatever way they can to keep their pets.

“We will work with them in all aspects,” he said.

The shelters have pet food pantries that families can access for assistance. Additionally, the shelter can connect families with low-cost resources if they are considering relinquishing their pet due to behavioral issues, Smith noted.

According to Smith, fostering is a great alternative for people who are interested in adopting a pet but are not ready for the commitment or who are unsure about their pet match. Families can learn what works best and what kind of dog or animal suits them through fostering animals, not to mention that it eases the strain of overcrowding at shelters. 

“We have a lot of success in cases in which foster families become adopters and then continue to foster as well,” Smith said. “That’s the ideal system.”

Zelda is up for adoption at the county’s Animal Services’ North Shelter in Carlsbad. More adoptive, foster families are needed to ease overcrowding. Photo by Samantha Nelson
County animal shelters are seeking more foster and adoptive families to help ease overcrowding. Photo by Samantha Nelson

To encourage fostering pets, the county shelters offer supplies, including food, crates, harnesses, leashes, collars, and even medical care to those who foster. 

Though dogs are currently the primary concern for the overcrowded county animal shelters, they also have cats, rabbits and even pigs available for adoption and foster care.

“Pigs make great pets,” Smith said. “They’re very smart and even dog-like; we have good success with families who adopt pigs that get along well with their dogs.”

The county is exploring all options and solutions to the overcrowding problem; however, changing its euthanasia policy is not one of those. For now and in the foreseeable future, the county will continue to euthanize animals based on their health conditions and not due to lack of space. 

“Our stance is working with these animals to keep them stress-free, as healthy as possible and get them into forever homes,” Smith said.

All dogs that have been in the shelter for more than 30 days will have adoption fees waived.

Pet owners are asked to please have their pets spayed or neutered to avoid pet overpopulation. County Animal Services can assist by providing low-cost referrals. People can also assist by providing dog food donations to the shelter’s food pantry.

Walk-in hours are from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the North Shelter, 2481 Palomar Airport Road in Carlsbad, and the South Shelter, 5821 Sweetwater Road in Bonita.

Check out some of the available pets on

To adopt, a photo identification card is required. Adoptions are on a first-come, first-served basis.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment