Tribune-Courier News Editor
BRIENSBURG – Looking to reduce the number of euthanizations and increase the number of pets adopted to caring families, the Marshall County Animal Shelter has introduced a number of new initiatives and policies this year.
So far, the changes have worked. According to employees Lexie Lamb and Misti Wagner, adoption rates are up nearly 75 percent over last year. Lamb, who began working with the shelter Aug. 17, is a licensed veterinary technician, while Wagner specializes in rescues, adoptions and foster programs. Wagner joined the shelter Oct. 3.
“We’ve had 17 adoptions per week since Oct. 3,” Wagner said. “We’ve already had 12 this week. Our main goal is to keep the animals going to good adoptive families and not finding their way back into a shelter.”
Wagner and Lamb said they’ve begun a number of new approaches to help match up the right pet and potential adoptive family. Pet fostering, volunteering, adoption drives and other changes recently implemented are all aimed at finding the right home for a pet.
“I’ll try to go in with them and counsel them,” Wagner said, noting that she tries to let each adoptive family know about the attitudes and interests of a potential pet. “Usually with the variety of animals we get in, we have something that will match them perfectly. It might not be the color they wanted or the sex they wanted, but once you explain to them the personality, they’re more open to that.”
Wagner said if shelter employees don’t think they have a compatible pet, they’ll encourage the family to wait until one comes in.
“We try to adopt out every animal that comes through the doors if we can,” Wagner said. “Last year there were 234 adoptions all year. The only animals we’ve had to euthanize since Lexie and I have been here have been sick or injured. There have been no healthy animals put down.”
“Families can come in if we get a situation of overcrowding, or if a family is contemplating getting a pet,” Wagner said. “A lot of people might be able to foster on the weekends just to get the dogs out of the shelter and help them socialize, give them a little excerise. It breaks up the monotony for the animals. It helps to make them more adoptable. We’re working hard to keep the animals familiar with people. If they’re caged for very long, their personalities do change.”
The shelter hopes to have a number of foster families ready for pets to go out on a regular basis. Families will have to be screened before pets are made available. Both cats and dogs are available for fostering.
“It helps the pet and foster families get the benefit of having a pet in the home,” Wagner said. “It also helps us match up possible adoptive families with the proper animal. We had one that fostered for us on family day and they decided they wanted to keep it. A lot of them will fall in love with them and decide they fit well into their family. That’s an option, to foster first before adopting to see if it fits in well with their other pets and their children.”
In addition to letting the pets go out to potential families, Lamb and Wagner are utilizing volunteers on site. Volunteers participate a few hours each week working with pets and providing extra care.
Grant monies will help provide additional services for pets, as well as allowing the shelter to house more animals.
“We’re actually going to build on and have more cat cages where we can house more cats,” Lamb said. “We’re going to have a ‘caterium.’ It will be an outside part where the cats can go and climb on the trees. We’re really excited about that. It gives them a place to play and socialize.”
More room to house dogs will be provided by two additional dog runs. A fenced in area will be erected to allow dogs to be taken outside for physical activity.
“They can take them off the leash or play ball with them,” Lamb said. “Plus the dog gets socialization and exercise. Right now we don’t we have a good place to walk dogs. If you’re interested in a dog it’s kind of hard to tell if they like you or not [on a leash]. We also have a lot of dogs that are high energy. It will be a good place to let them out during the day.”
The expansion may also help reduce the pet population.
“We’re building on a surgical suite in the back where we can hopefully do spaying and neutering here on site,” Lamb said. “There’s going to be large bathing area also.”
The shelter is currently running a spay and neuter program through its volunteer group. T-shirt sales and donations go to help spay and neuter pets.
“We’d like to see enough money come in through our volunteer group to spay and neuter the majority of animals that are adopted out,” Wagner said.
Wagner said anyone interested in a T-shirt can find out more via the shelter’s Facebook page. The page also has information for ordering Kuranda dog cots, which the shelter is currently seeking to add.
“We have four donated so far,” Wagner said. “People on our Facebook page can click on the link we have and order the cots online and they ship them directly to us. The cots help keep the dogs up off the floor.”
In addition to being uncomfortable, the cold concrete can also lead to hip and skin problems for pets.
Many of the changes implemented also work to make the shelter a more inviting place.
“Our door is open,” Wagner said. “We want the public to know things have changed and continue to change. We invite the public to come out and visit. The shelter isn’t a sad place to come. The animals are well taken care of. They’re loved and played with, and we’re doing our best to get every animal adopted.”
The shelter is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are located behind the county recycling center on Benton-Briensburg Road. Pets are updated on the shelter’s facebook page regularly, or for more information, phone 527-0954.