Homeless dogs in Massachusetts at an all-time high, shelter officials say

HOPKINTON, Mass. — The Covid ‘Gotta get a pet’ boom is long over, and animal shelters know it.

“Right now, especially Massachusetts, is seeing an all-time high for dogs needing a home,” said Emma Wailgum, an adoption counselor at Baypath Humane Society in Hopkinton.

It’s not so much that shelters are stocked with Covid-wave pets given up by owners, it’s more the ancillary effects of the pandemic they’re dealing with.

“A lot of the problems that came from Covid also had to do with vets shutting down and having less appointments,” said Wailgum. “There were less spay and neuter appointments, which led to dogs overpopulating.”

One annual way to try and ease the burden on shelters is National Adopt-A-Shelter Pet Day, which has been held every April 30th for more than 40 years.

Among the candidates for adoption at Baypath Humane Society is JJ, “a big boy,” Wailgum said.

Then there’s Miss Betty, “our senior,” she added.

Winnie and Leo, who endured a long trip to the U.S. to escape a horrific destiny, also need a good home.

“These dogs are from the South Korea meat trade,” said Maddy Berthold, who handles marketing for Baypath. “Our biggest thing with the meat trade dogs is that a lot of them were in cages for years of their lives. So they don’t know people.”

Winnie and Leo seem to be adjusting fine to people, and to American cuisine, with both sniffing out a stack of empty pizza boxes leftover from lunch.

Baypath tries to make adoptions as easy as possible.

“We’re not a rescue that says, ‘You need a fenced-in yard, this and that,’” Wailgum said. “We call it a matchmaking process. We’re gonna kind of see what you can handle, what you are looking for, so that we can try to fit a good personality to your home.”

Because of that process, Baypath -- and several other shelters Boston 25 News contacted -- host prospective pet-owners on an appointment-only basis. This often helps adopters find the dog or cat that seems to be the best fit.

But the relationship doesn’t end there.

“We are a support system for them,” Wailgum said. “We just want them to give the dog a chance.”

Shelter workers and volunteers sometimes see the heartbreaking results of abuse and neglect. But they also witness those healing moments when a pet and person begin to bond.

“Sometimes you’ll just open the door to your car and the dog just shoots right in and you’re like, ‘Yup, they’re gonna be fine,’” said Wailgum.

If you’re interested in setting up an appointment to adopt a cat or dog, visit Baypath Humane Society’s website at www.baypathhumane.org.

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