FILE—Animal control officer Jeremy Guilland, left, gives a stray a dewormer treatment Friday, April 10, 2020, at the Yakima Humane Society, 2405 W. Birchfield Road in Yakima, Wash.

The Yakima Humane Society plans to close its shelter next week for deep cleaning intended to keep animals safe amid a dramatic rise in intakes, many of which are sick.

As of Thursday, the shelter had recorded 512 more intakes since the start of the year than in the same nearly eight-month period last year, said Sheryl Haga, the humane society’s director of business operations.

The vast majority of incoming animals are cats and kittens, she said. While there is usually a surge of kittens born this time of year, she said this season has been “astronomical.”

“This year is definitely record-setting numbers,” she said.

Staff at the humane society hypothesize this could be because of vet and clinic closures in the peak of the pandemic last year, preventing people from getting their cats spayed or neutered.

As large numbers of animals come in, Haga said the shelter is also seeing a large proportion of sick kittens. She said many are suffering from upper respiratory issues or ringworm, which requires them to go into treatment and isolation before they can be placed in foster homes.

In an effort to keep animals healthy, she said the shelter will close Monday for all intakes other than municipal contracts, with tentative plans to gradually reintroduce intake appointments Wednesday and to resume full hours of operation on July 31. During this time, a deep clean of the facility will be conducted and some repairs that have been overlooked amid the surge in intakes will be addressed, she said. Adoption appointments will continue, as well.

Haga said the deep clean is important to ensure healthy incoming animals aren’t unnecessarily exposed to illness.

“We got hit so hard, so fast with so many intakes that we just want to take a pause to dot our i’s and cross our t’s and make sure that we deep clean everything. Unfortunately, the only way to do that is to stop intakes coming in,” she said.

Haga asked that the community have patience as the shelter goes through this process.

“All we’re trying to do is just try to give the best service we can, and that includes ensuring the safety of our animals,” she said.

She also emphasized the importance of having pets spayed and neutered, which could diminish the likelihood of this scenario repeating itself.