SAN JOSE -- It's late afternoon and Ronnie the dog seems content in his kennel at San Jose Animal Care and Services.
But when you look into his eyes as he stares through the kennel's metal slats, it's probably safe to say he'd be much happier in a home with a family.
Ronnie is a Belgian Malinois that is somewhere around five years old. This shelter has been his home for more than 300 days.
He showed up as a stray with no microchip, no tags and no owner to be found, according to Jay Terrado, deputy director of San Jose Animal Care and Services.
"It breaks my heart to see that this dog is still here," Terrado said.
Ronnie is just one of about 900 animals currently living in the shelter -- a record high -- that Terrado hopes will be adopted or find foster care. There are approximately 250 dogs, 600 cats and around 60 other animals at the shelter needing homes.
"We definitely are way beyond our capacity for care," Terrado said.
He says it's tough to identify one main reason why so many animals are ending up at the shelter.
"I think, after COVID, we started to see a lot of folks who gave us reasons -- like their housing situation has changed," he said. "It could be financial reasons. It could be the lack of access to vet care. It could be numerous reasons – like moving out of the area and they can't take their animals with them."
Dogs like Ronnie are staying in shelter. The average length of stay is up from 10 days to 22 days, according to Terrado.
"That will continue to increase if we're not able to address this situation sooner," he said.
Terrado says the more animals that can get out of the shelter and into homes, the better. It means more animals will be with families and the staff at the shelter can work more with the animals that really need the attention.
"A dog like this [Ronnie] could easily be in somebody's home right now," Terrado said.
As an incentive for people in the community to adopt or foster, the shelter is not charging fees on many of the animals, said Terrado.
"The free adoptions will last as long as we are at this level of number of animals at the facility," he said.
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