Woodstock nonprofit working to raise awareness of conditions at animal shelters around the country

Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 10:56 AM EST
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WOODSTOCK, Va. (WHSV) - Cara Achterberg of Maurertown had fostered over 200 animals and wrote a book about the topic, and was on tour for the book visiting shelters in the region when she says she found her next calling.

“I discovered what was happening in the shelters and I realized I didn’t know what was happening in our nation’s shelters, then a lot of people don’t know what’s happening in our nation’s shelters and particularly in the south so that’s mainly where we focus,” Achterberg said.

Achterberg and her team at her nonprofit, Who WILL let the dogs out? based out of Woodstock, have been to nearly 100 shelters across the country. With a focus on Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, and Kentucky.

“Meeting ACO’s (animal control officers), directors, volunteers, and a lot of dogs,” Achterberg said.

In each of those visits, a common theme of overcrowding. Achterberg saying, things are worse than she has ever seen with many dogs being euthanized.

A contributing factor, many of the dogs who were adopted as ‘pandemic puppies’ are being brought in.

“The average age in a shelter is between 1 and 2 because teenagers are difficult. So a lot of people get to that point ith a dog where they haven’t done their homework and they don’t know the breed or they haven’t done the hard work of training and socializing dogs become very difficult at that point,” Achterberg said.

Achterberg says another contributing factor is a lack of available spay and neuter surgeries.

“Along with economics, housing crisis, veterinary shortage there’s so many reasons it’s kind of created a perfect storm,” Achterberg said.

She says one big way individuals can help out is by fostering, as her team actively works to help their 95 shelter partners with their operations.

“We help them find grant money. Many many smaller shelters don’t have the resources or the people sometimes not even the internet connection to apply for grants,” Achterberg said.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, Achterberg says it will be a long team effort between communities, shelters, and individuals to achieve a solution.

“I never planned to do this, I am an author and so that’s the one skill I have that I bring to this so that’s what I do I write about it. Everybody’s got something they can bring to this and we’re happy to take that skill and put it to work saving lives,” Achterberg said.