NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Animal shelters and rescues are struggling to keep up with an influx of abandoned pets in the pandemic, and to make matters worse, staffing is being hit hard by COVID.

Stephanie Hite-Witt adopted the newest member of the family at Animal Care CentersStaten Island location on Veterans Road West.

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“l think we just need a little sprinkle of joy in our household,” she told CBS2’s Dave Carlin.

Hite-Witt went straight home to Mariners Harbor to surprise her 11-year-old brother, Amiere. That’s a family overjoyed, helping a rescue that is overburdened.

In the pandemic, too many dogs and cats are being left there.

“It’s usually those older animals, those older cats, those older dogs that have challenges,” Animal Care Centers manager Paul Sanders said.

As of Jan. 6, ACC has 544 cats and dogs in its facilities on Staten Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan. One year ago, the total was 353. It’s a 54% increase.

This building on Staten Island has twice the expected number of animals.

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“We do not euthanize ever for space,” Sanders said. “We do not say, this animal’s been here for a certain amount of time, time’s up. That is not something we do at ACC.”

One dog named Kiki has been in the ACC’s system since August and came to the Staten Island location on Dec. 27. Normally you’d see an adoption of a dog like Kiki within six days, but now it’s taking longer.

“We need more people to come in to adopt. We also could use fosters,” Sanders said. “We can do a trial adoption. At the end of two weeks, if it works, great, we translate it right into a regular adoption.”

The latest COVID surge is also hurting staffing. There is a a shortage of employees with the workforce down 30% due to COVID, with about 30 open positions.

The struggle is made bearable when you see true love blossom between a person and pet.

“If I could take them all, I would,” Hite-Witt said.

It keeps everyone going until all the animals have homes.

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The ACC is hosting a virtual cat and dog fostering orientation on Saturday. For more information about cat fostering, visit For more information about dog fostering, visit

Dave Carlin