Several animal protection groups on Friday demanded that the Changhua County Government tackle the problem of stray dogs, after its animal shelter was discovered housing twice the number of dogs it can handle.

Since the nation’s “no mercy killing” policy for stray animals came into effect in February 2017, many public animal shelters have reported problems with overcrowding.

Dozens of group representatives, who gathered at a news conference with the county government on Friday, held images showing dogs crowded in small cages.

They also delivered a petition to officials regarding the improvement of shelter conditions for the animals.

The number of stray dogs registered in Changhua has grown from nearly 7,000 in 2015 to 16,000 last year, the groups said, citing data compiled by the Council of Agriculture.

The county’s public shelter in Yuanlin Township (員林) has taken in 344 animals, more than double its maximum capacity of 161 animals, they said.

Four to five dogs are forced to stay in cages designed for two because the county government catches and sends them to the shelter, said Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳), secretary-general of the Taiwan Animal Protection Administration Administrative Oversight Alliance.

Stray animals breed quickly, and if the government does not reduce their numbers by neutering them, the situation would continue to worsen, Taiwan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals legal specialist Chou Jing-fan (周敬凡) said.

Changhua County councilors Lai Tse-min (賴澤民), Chuang Sheng-han (莊陞漢) and Wu Wei-ta (吳韋達) supported the groups’ appeals.

Instead of catching only aggressive dogs that chase after cars and people, officials began seizing any stray dog, so that they could earn more rewards provided by the county government, Lai said.

Admitting that the county’s shelter is overcrowded, Changhua Department of Agriculture Director-General Chiu Yi-chih (邱奕志) said the public shelters in nine municipalities, whether they are run by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or the Democratic Progressive Party commissioners, share the same problem.

Over the past three years, the county government did not effectively carry out the “trap, neuter, vaccination and return” program for stray animals, while the current administration is more effective and has put 431 stray animals through the program, Chiu said.

The county government is looking for location at which to build another shelter, he said.

Only 78 percent of local households have registered their pets’ information, meaning that there is room for improvement, he added.