HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- If you build it, they will come. Huntington's new dog park has certainly brought out the dog lovers and their pampered pooches.
But, it's also brought out people leaving their dogs behind. Since it opened in June, the park has seen several cases of abandoned dogs -- raising some concerns about animal welfare and those putting them in jeopardy.
“I don't like dogs to be unattended anywhere in Huntington,” said Jon Baier, a dog owner.
But, that's exactly what's happening at Huntington's new dog park. The latest was a mixed breed dog picked up Tuesday by the Huntington-Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter.
“Quite possibly, someone just put him inside the fence to keep him safe," animal shelter Director Jim Cumm said. "But he stayed overnight, and they called to tell us he's still there.”
The latest dog is one of several left at the park in the last two months. Cumm says owner surrenders are already a big problem for the shelter.
“Folks get a guilty conscious if they bring their pet that they’ve had a long time to the animal shelter. This may be another exit for them to leave an animal like that,” he said.
Dog owner Kelsey Ross said, “Huntington has such a bad problem with stray dogs. It only makes sense that if we have a dog park, people are going to dump them here.”
Fellow dog owner Kathy Chezik said, "I guess if someone is going to dump a dog, it's safer to dump them in a dog park where they're not going to be hit by a car. But, we prefer they take them to the shelter or not dump them at all."
The shelter is constantly battling an overcrowding problem, with dozens of adorable dogs hoping for a loving home. Cumm agrees, though, that dumping dogs at the dog park is not making matters any better.
“We still think the safest place to give them up is at the shelter where they have some security and can get food and water daily,” he said.
So far, three dogs have been left at the park, most recently the mixed breed. The others were a full-blooded German Shepherd and a miniature Pinscher.
Cumm says the other two dogs were beautiful and have found homes. He's hopeful the latest to come in will have the same good fortune.
The shelter is working to move toward a higher adoption rate and less euthanasia. They're seeking foster homes to help alleviate some of the overcrowding and better socialize dogs and cats until they're adopted out.