Adoption is only chance for strays at animal shelter
By Kathy Chaffin
A tan-and-white beagle mix begins to tremble in fear as Post photographer Andy Mooney approaches to take his picture. But the dog does not move.
Peering out cautiously through the cage door of an outdoor kennel at the Rowan County Animal Shelter, the beagle is one of 29 dogs there picked up as strays. He sits quietly as Mooney takes several photos, then, despite his trembling, licks the photographer’s hand when he holds it out.
Puppies in the outdoor kennels are playful, not knowing that unless someone comes forward to adopt them, they are steps away from death’s door in a carbon monoxide gas chamber.
But the eyes of some, like the beagle, seem weary. Life as a dog has not been easy for the strays.
Some were abandoned by their owners, dropped off along a country road to scrounge for food and find a warm place to sleep at night. Others were neglected and allowed to run loose without proper nutrition, grooming or veterinary care.
Outdoor kennels on the other side of the shelter house 23 dogs surrendered by their owners for various reasons, including layoffs and foreclosures due to the recession. Three of the runs contain 16 cats, many of them feral, and three kittens.
Inside the shelter, the friendliest, most marketable kittens, cats, puppies and dogs are visible to anyone who walks in the front door.
In the room housing kittens and cats, a playful, 6-month-old, male tabby named Trouble extends a paw through his cage to touch Mooney’s camera. He’s friendly and seems to be rather mischievous, which might explain the name his owner gave him before turning the cat in at the shelter.
Below him, a more reserved white, female cat ventures from the back of her cage to see what’s going on, and also stretches out her paw.
In the cage next to her, two 8-week old kittens ó one gray and white and one tan and white ó seem oblivious to the camera and wrestle playfully. Another black-and-white cat sits quietly in its cage watching what’s going on.
The puppies and dogs seem excited to see visitors walk into their room. Two tan-colored poodle siblings kept in adjoining cages appear the most eager for attention.
In the cage next to them, a female Shih Tzu is more reserved, but friendly.
The other dogs in the cages include three border collie siblings and two chocolate brown cocker spaniel mix siblings.
Rowan Animal Control Supervisor Clai Martin says all of the animals in the indoor cages are available for adoption along with a number of the strays and owner surrenders in the outdoor kennels.
Ten months into the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the Rowan County Animal Shelter has already adopted out 572 unwanted cats and dogs. That’s an average of 64 lives per month spared from being euthanized.
“We do our best to find them a home,” Martin said, “but there’s no guarantee they’re going to find one. We get so excited when they do.”
The animal shelter, located off Julian Road, advertises the adoptable cats and dogs on its Web site, the Pet Finders Web site and in the “Pals with Paws” feature in the Area section of the Salisbury Post Sunday editions.
Shelter viewing hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4 :15 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-noon; and Saturdays, 8-11 a.m.
Anyone interested in a kitten, cat, puppy or dog in the indoor cages can take them into one of two visiting rooms furnished with chairs and toys so they can get better acquainted. Those interested in the kittens, cats, puppies or dogs surrendered by owners or picked up as strays can take them into an outdoor shelter built with donations in memory of Ann Almond.
“She was a very dear friend to my parents,” Martin said, “and I loved her to death.” Her daughter, Dr. Cynthia Almond, is a veterinarian at Rowan Animal Clinic.
A sign reading “In honor and loving memory of Ann Almond and her lifelong passion for animals” greets visitors to the 12-by-19-foot shelter, surrounded with landscaping stones and flowers. Inside, a bench and pet toys allow people a chance to interact with cats and dogs in private.
The adoption fee is $70 for cats and dogs that have not been spayed or neutered and is a down payment toward a veterinarian’s fee for the surgeries. People who adopt animals from the shelter are required to have them seen by a veterinarian within three days, start all shots, including the rabies vaccination, and to have them spayed or neutered within 30 days.
The Ruth and Don Webster Spay/Neuter Clinic and Adoption Center located beside of and operated by the staff of Lazy 5 Ranch Veterinary Services on South Main Street offers low-cost surgeries. The Humane Society of Rowan County offers a shuttle to a low-cost, spay and neuter clinic in Winston-Salem.
During the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2007, and ending June 30, 2008, 698 cats and dogs were adopted from the Rowan Animal Shelter, an average of 58 a month. The year before, 771 cats and dogs were adopted, an average of 64 a month, and the year before that, 989 cats and dogs were adopted, an average of 82 per month.
Martin said he and the staff work hard to increase their adoptions and pointed to a framed page of the March 24, 2007 Salisbury Post editorial page praising their high numbers. “We were really proud of that,” Martin said.
The Humane Society of Rowan County and Faithful Friends Animal Shelter work with the animal shelter to find homes for unwanted animals along with various cat and dog rescue groups.
Animal Control officers from other counties interviewed for this series also have successful adoption programs.
Gaston County Animal Control received a 2008 Ralph Ketner Employee Productivity Award for its Web-based adoption initiative.
“We photograph them and put their pictures and full description on our Web site,” said Animal Control Administrator Reggie Horton.
Gaston Animal Control has also been able to place more than 1,800 unwanted cats and dogs with various rescue groups, he said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control has a public information specialist and special events and promotions coordinator to help promote its programs.
Melissa Knicely said the animal shelter has adopted out 3,076 cats and dogs so far with two months to go in the 2008-2009 fiscal year. The total cat and dog intake at the shelter during that period was 13,252.
Before she was hired, Knicely said most of the publicity the shelter received was after something bad happened. Her media background helped Knicely to secure more positive newspaper and television coverage for the shelter’s fundraisers and community outreach programs.
“The more you get out there,” she said, “the more the public embraces you and supports you and doesn’t think of you as the municipal shelter that kills dogs and cats.We’re trying to get the word out that we’re not the bad guys here.”
One of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control’s community outreach programs is helping struggling pet owners feed their cats and dogs.
“People were coming in crying because they didn’t want to give up their pets,” Knicely said, but because of the current economic hard times, they couldn’t afford to feed them anymore.
The shelter, collaborating with the Second Harvest Food Bank, kicked off a pet food drive in March, bringing in 20,000 pounds of cat and dog food and $13,000 in monetary donations so far.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control collaborates with the Humane Society of Charlotte to apply for grants only available to nonprofits to help with spay-neuter clinics. Private donations also help pay for the clinics.
The shelter has about 250 volunteers who help with its various programs.
“It’s very, very easy to be a squeaky wheel,” she said of animal lovers who sit back and criticize animal shelters. “But you’re not being proactive.
“If you really, really care, then step up to the plate and do something about it. We obviously have that here.”
Without volunteers, Knicely said the shelter wouldn’t be able to hold as many off-site adoption events and other programs.
The shelter also has an active foster program. Knicely said the shelter currently has 97 animals in foster care, and that’s lower than usual.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control offers a Second Chance Medical Program ó supported by private donations ó through which adoptable animals receive medical care and are fostered out until they have recovered enough to be adopted.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.