Volunteers deal with compassion fatigue at Cumberland County Animal Shelter

It's life or death for many animals who live at the Cumberland County animal shelter. The shelter is typically filled during the summer months and by law, it can't turn any animals away, which forces them to make some tough decisions.

For now, the shelter is home to several hundred dogs and cats. While the goal is to find the animals a loving home, enforcement officer Elaine Smith admits time is running out.

"If we don't have enough animals going through adoption or rescue, unfortunately, the only other option is to euthanize," said Smith.

State law requires the shelter to hold animals for three days, but animals brought it by an owner wanting to relinquish them could be euthanized right away.

"We have to deal with compassion fatigue. That sort of depression with our staff," said Smith. "It's a job no one wants to do, but we're forced into it."

According to Smith, the shelter can hold 300 dogs and cats at a time. Every month, it averages an intake of one thousand animals.

"25 to 30 percent that we'd love to place in homes, but there's not enough homes out there and not enough people to adopt," Smith added.

The shelter has volunteers who socialize the animals. The hope is to equip the animals with social skills that could help pair them with new owners.
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