Orange County Animal Services sees success in overcrowding diversion program

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Animal shelters across Central Florida continue to report overcrowding. However, Orange County Animal Services has taken a new approach to address the issue that they say is working.


Since October, they’ve seen 38% fewer animals surrendered by owners, thanks to their new Animal Diversion Program. The program helps struggling families with resources to keep pets at home instead of the shelter.

“We want the shelter to be the last option, not the first option,” Orange County Animal Services spokesperson Bryant Almeida explained. “These people don’t really want to give up on their animals, but they feel like they have no choice.”

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Through a phone call, pet owners get appointments for an in-depth call that gives counseling services, education, and alternative placement options.

Animal Services staff will meet once a week to review the information they receive from the consultations and build their list of community resources to help people with their pet issues.

Almedia says they have helped people with issues like needing help with buying pet food, supplies, vet care, grooming, and more.

The program has only been in place for a few months, but Almeida says it’s already a success, keeping the shelter empty, and families together.

In January, 355 people contacted Animal Services, and 258 were diverted from the shelters through the diversion program.

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“I think they should go statewide with it,” pet owner Ray Teixeira said. “It would help with a lot of the stray problems and the overcrowding in the Humane Society.”

Almedia said by following this procedure and providing phone consultations before owners drive their dogs to the shelter, they are more likely to keep them once they have solutions to their issues.

The program runs on resources and donations that are already readily available to Animal Services.

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“We’re very fortunate that we have a very generous and giving community,” Almeida said. “Almost every weekend, we have groups coming in here with piles of donations.”

The shelter is setting up appointments with people a month in advance, so it’s best to be patient and avoid waiting until the last minute to call for help.

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