Unicoi animal shelter adoptions on the rise

Brad Hicks • Feb 2, 2012 at 10:38 AM

ERWIN — Oscar has reason to be happy.

Soon, he’ll make the long voyage to the Great White North. On Wednesday, Oscar took in some of the last glimpses of a place he has called home for the past several weeks.

It won’t be long before the dachshund mix finds his way to an animal rescue in Canada. Oscar represents one of the more recent success stories at the Unicoi County Animal Shelter, and similar stories have become more common at the shelter as of late.

The shelter is coming off its most successful year for animal adoption since it opened its doors in early 2008. From July 2008 to December 2009, 84 cats and 208 dogs were adopted from the shelter. From July 2009 to December 2010, the shelter adopted out 81 cats and 209 dogs.

However, from July 2010 to December 2011, the shelter saw a significant increase in the number of cats and dogs adopted, which includes those sent to animal rescues. During that time period, 162 cats and 345 dogs found new homes.

Shelter Director Angie Rose, who took over as director in April, said the shelter’s recent success can likely be attributed to several things. One, she said, is giving potential pet adopters more opportunities to stop in and see the animals.

“I think part of it is we’re open more hours now,” she said. “When I first started, we were open 23 hours, but now we’re open 29 hours a week. I’d like to get it open even more.”

Rose also gives credit to folks who volunteer at the shelter on the weekends and to volunteers who travel to the Johnson City PetSmart for weekend pet adoptions there. This has been particularly effective in getting cats adopted, she said.

“They get a lot of adult cats adopted out there that would not even get looked at twice here,” Rose said.

December marked the first time the shelter adopted out more cats than it euthanized, Rose said.

Like other shelters, Rose said the Unicoi County Animal Shelter takes advantage of available technology. A photography crew is brought in to take pictures of adoptable pets and these pictures, and sometimes videos, are quickly posted on Petfinder.com. Rose said she answers several emails daily about animals displayed on the site.

Spaying and neutering programs through the Unicoi County Humane Society have been helpful in reducing the number of unwanted animals in the county, Rose said. She also praised the efforts of shelter employee Angela Bennett, who Rose said works extensively with animal rescue organizations.

“She works really hard to get a lot of these guys rescued that wouldn’t be finding a home here,” Rose said.

Euthanasia numbers are also down at the shelter. The shelter saw a 6 percent decrease in the number of dogs euthanized from the July 2009 to December 2010 time frame to the July 2010 to December 2011 period. During those time periods, the shelter realized a 34 percent decrease in the number of cats put down. Still, Rose said she wants these number improved upon.

“I want to see it improve,” Rose said. “I would love to be a no-kill shelter. I mean, I think having to euthanize one animal is too many.”

The shelter is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 1-5 p.m., Thursday from 1-6 p.m., and on Saturday from 1-4 p.m. The shelter is closed on Sunday.

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