When people pick up stray dogs and drop them off at the county animal shelter, they may feel they're doing the right thing. But there's usually a better option.
McCracken County Animal Shelter Director Ryan Brown said when a person first sees a stray dog, the best thing to do is call animal control.
Since Brown took over as shelter director in May, he's noticed about three or four dogs a week are being dropped off at the shelter by people who saw them running loose while driving down the road. The shelter also receives calls daily from people who picked up a dog and brought it home. Although it's the shelter's job to take in stray animals, some of the dogs the shelter has taken appear to be well-cared for and likely have a home.
"The frustrating part of it is I believe the people who are picking dogs up are doing a good service and obviously they don't wish any ill will on the animal. But we're trying to encourage people to contact animal control," he said.
When animal control responds to a call, McCracken County's three animal control officers can work to knock on doors and find the pet owners. When dogs are dropped off at the shelter, it's harder to pinpoint where they were found, Brown said.
He said the animal control officers have experience in locating the homes of habitual strays that regularly run loose.
On Saturday, a dog was dropped off at the shelter that had recently been bathed and its nails were trimmed.
"This dog was probably going to play with its buddy down the street and going home for dinner," Brown said.
Brown said return rates on dogs that are picked up and dropped off at the shelter are not good. The shelter does see some success in finding animals' homes after posting pictures on its Facebook page.
Another recurring problem is confusion over the McCracken County Animal Shelter and McCracken County Humane Society. Brown said the humane society helps by directing people to the county shelter, but a lot of people still don't know the county shelter exists, and some owners miss a chance to find their animals.
Terry Vannerson, director of the McCracken County Humane Society, said the shelter does not have a similar problem as the county shelter with drop-offs because the humane society takes only owner surrenders.
Space is also tight at the humane society's shelter, though. More people have been bringing their pets to the shelter as a result of losing their jobs or moving to a new residence that does not allow pets. Some owners are simply unable to afford the pets.
"I thought it was bad last year, but this year it's worse," she said.
Unlike the county shelter, the humane society microchips each dog it takes in. Microchipping animals is one way both Brown and Vannerson said local residents can help ensure stray dogs are returned home.
On Oct. 4, the county shelter will be working with Broadway United Methodist Church's Blessing of the Animals event, where dogs can be microchipped.
To reach McCracken County Animal Control's 24-hour line, call 270-331-6417. More information on found dogs is available on the McCracken County Animal Shelter's Facebook page. The McCracken County Humane Society also posts available pets on its page.
Contact Lauren Duncan, Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8692 or follow @laurenpduncan on Twitter.