1 250
Concerns about cost and staffing have halted progress on Laurel’s new animal shelter.
Photo courtesy of Heather Zadig

Plans to establish a no-kill animal shelter in Laurel have been put on hold due to budgetary constraints, challenges in securing suitable property and a potential shortage of volunteers to run the facility.

City Council President James Kole (Ward 1) confirmed that these issues were critical factors in the decision to pause the project.

“I have talked to some of my colleagues on councils and other jurisdictions that have built shelters, and they are struggling with volunteers to run their shelters. They’ve ended up adding it to their budgets,” he said. “We want to make sure that we’re doing right for everyone, including the taxpayers of Laurel, and making sure that we are funding this in a smart way.”

Laurel’s current policy calls for holding stray animals at the police department for 24 hours before transferring them to a county shelter in Upper Marlboro, about a 45-minute drive from Laurel. This approach is seen as a temporary solution and presents logistical challenges, particularly considering cat populations, which are harder to manage without a dedicated facility.

Kole noted that shelters are increasingly strained due to the uptick in abandoned pets since the COVID-19 pandemic eased.

“As people are moving apartments, they may not be able to have pets anymore,” he said. “We’re finding a lot of that. The real problem is with cats. We don’t see it as much with dogs.”

Helen Woods, president of Laurel Cats, expressed concerns over issues the Prince George’s County shelter is facing.

“They are just so overwhelmed by dogs, and we’re not in kitten season right now, but they’re going to have similar problems in the summer,” she said, referencing the county shelter in Upper Marlboro.

Many other area jurisdictions including Beltsville, College Park and Greenbelt, use the shelter in Upper Marlboro, too. Kole cited this as a significant factor in the burgeoning population.

According to Bruce Dodgson, head of Laurel’s no-kill shelter task force, Mayor Keith Sydnor predicted that the plans would be paused for a year.

“Several members were vocally disappointed” at the decision, Dodgson said.

Dodgson and Woods are searching for other options through the county to bring an animal shelter to Laurel.

“Our job is to make sure that we are giving the best services possible to Laurel and that includes making sure that we are not misspending their funds,” Kole said. “If there’s something that we can do to partner with other jurisdictions in the county, we are willing to do that.”