The Charleston Animal Society has a big problem — it’s running out of room for large dogs given up for adoption.

Charleston Walks the Dog is a brand new program launched this month to help match 42 large adult dogs with forever homes. As an incentive, the shelter is currently waiving all costs to adopt these dogs because they often take longer to place in homes because they’re, well, big.

“In an effort to showcase these big guys out of the shelter in a more normal environment, we created a new promotion series called Charleston Walks the Dog through which local photographer Heather Moran donates her time to take pictures of our featured big dogs out in the community with notable Charlestonians,” said Sean Hawkins, Charleston Animal Society’s chief advancement officer.

The shelter will also send dogs home with a month’s supply of food and three months each of heartworm and flea prevention, equivalent to about $300 worth of supplies. All adoptable dogs have been examined by a veterinarian, vaccinated, microchipped, and spayed or neutered. 

“The percentages are up for intakes of animals coming into the shelter,” said Kay Hyman, the society’s director of community engagement. “But the amount of animals that are leaving the shelter has really slowed dramatically over the last couple of months. It’s not just us. It’s across the country.”

Big dogs tend to sit on the adoption floor longer than other animals because it takes more time to place them for various reasons. For example, some people who might want to adopt a large dog can’t because rental units have weight limit rules that freeze out big dogs, Hawkins said. The Charleston Walks the Dog program is the shelter’s proactive approach to housing its larger dogs that remain up for adoption for longer periods.  

The new promotional series program also focuses on harder to place dogs that need extra help being seen in a positive light, Hyman said. Some of the dogs featured in the program aren’t placed on the shelter’s adoption floor because it’s too stressful for them and they have a more difficult time being social with strangers. 

Economic stresses in the Lowcountry today also seem to be impacting lower adoption rates, Hawkins said.

“When the belt tightens at home, you’re probably not going to be adding the expense of adopting a new adult dog,” he said. “For dogs who are already in homes, the economy is impacting those families when they move because so many, particularly with rental housing or apartments in Charleston, have weight restrictions, or size restrictions, or exorbitant pet deposits or even pet rent — and that makes [adoption] unattainable. 

“We’re seeing dogs be relinquished to the shelter when families have to move into that environment [or families aren’t] able to adopt a new dog.”

There are other ways to help if you can’t make room for a dog, Hyman said. 

Charleston Animal Society also offers fostering opportunities if adoption isn’t a good fit. People can also volunteer with Paws Around Town, which helps a shelter dog get a change of scenery by going on walks and adventures with volunteers.

Visit the Paws Around Town Facebook page or email to inquire about any adopting, fostering and volunteer opportunities. 

“[It’s] critical … for people to share the images on social media of the dogs that are available for adoption,” Hyman said. “You never know who might be in the market for a dog. Share, share, share — I can’t say enough how important that is.”

A list of all dogs up for adoption along with bios and pictures is available on the Charleston Animal Society website.

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