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Animal shelter improvements helping raise adoption numbers, officials say


By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer

Animal control officer Holly Cichelli tells the Advocate that improvements at the animal shelter are leading more people to drop off and adopt animals there.

The number of drop-offs and adoptions from 2016 to 2017 seem to bear that out. Last month Cichelli presented the county’s Fiscal Court with a statistical report from the two-year period.

The statistics show that the number of pickups (which also include drop-offs) rose from 1,670 in 2016 to 1,840 last year.

Most went to rescue organizations. The shelter uses several different groups from all over the country.

The number of rescues were virtually unchanged from 2016 when there were 1,360 to 1,314 in 2017.

Adoptions, however, increased dramatically between 2016 and 2017. There were 221 in 2016 and 313 in 2017.

Cichelli said she believes the increase came about because the public has more trust in the local animal shelter, which has made significant upgrades the past couple of years.

She said people are starting to learn that there are all kinds of wonderful dogs/puppies, cats/kittens to choose from at the shelter.
Cichelli points out the improvements on the shelter’s Facebook page, which also gives details such as operating hours, cost for adoption and availability of low cost spay/neuter clinics.

You can also learn more about the spay/neuter program by calling the shelter at 498-8751.

All animals must be spayed/neutered before adoption from the shelter unless they are too small. In those cases the adoptees are given a voucher by a veterinarian and the shelter later goes back to confirm that the procedure has been performed, Cichelli said.

The shelter maintains regular business hours, but Cichelli notes that occasionally a worker may not be there during that time if they have to respond to an animal welfare check.

The shelter is also using social media in other ways.

The shelter routinely posts animals up for adoption on sites such as Pet Finder, Find A Pet and others. It also advertises animals for adoption in the Advocate.

While the number of dogs/puppies rescued grew by 69 over the two-year period, the number of cats/kittens picked up and rescued were on the decline, much to Cichelli’s surprise. The number of those picked up dropped by 34 between 2016 and 2017 and the number of those rescued were down 92 during that period, statistics show.

The animal shelter released 117 animals back to their owners in 2016 and 130 in 2017, according to the stats.

The shelter is trying to be more responsible in its adoption process by screening people through an application process. Rescue organizations are now required to enter into an adoption contract with the shelter before taking animals.

Even though the county animal shelter is not a no-kill facility, it has not had to euthanize any animals over space issues over the past two years, Cichelli said.

The shelter did have to put down eight animals in 2016 and 10 more in 2017, but that was primarily for public safety reasons involving aggressive dogs that were not adoptable, she said.

Three animals died of natural causes in 2016 and eight this past year, statistics show.

Cichelli said she and fellow animal control officer Tim Long and a cadre of volunteers have worked hard to improve the animal shelter and believe they are making a difference.

“Our goal is to save every life that comes to the shelter and we work really, really hard to do that,” she said. “The animal shelter has a heart for these animals and we’re trying to save every life we can.”

Cichelli said shelter staff and volunteers have had tremendous support from the fiscal court and public in making the changes and encourages anyone to visit the Facebook page or tour the facility to learn more.
“It takes a team to save lives,” she said.

In addition to public education, Cichelli said the shelter has engaged in more community outreach.

The shelter recently sponsored a promotion to encourage school children to read to their dog or cat this winter. The goal is to teach young people how to care for an animal, Cichelli said.

“It starts with the kids,” she said.
Each Christmas season the shelter sponsors a Make-A-Wish Tree in which the public can draw an ornament to determine what they can contribute in the form of a donation to support the animals.

The shelter also sponsors a Santa Paws, where the public can have their photograph taken with their pet. J’rie Elliott, a part-time employee at the shelter, is also a professional photographer and takes the photos.
The shelter is always looking for volunteers and others who want to get involved, Cichelli said. There is also a continual need for donations of such things as pet food, towels, bleach, animal toys and blankets.
Over the last year the shelter has stepped up security at the facility with security cameras and better lighting. There are also regular patrols by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

Part of the reason is to protect the animals that are housed there. Cichelli said there have been instances when animals have been stolen from the shelter.
It’s also to protect the animals that are left at one of the emergency after hours drop-off kennels.

The shelter is currently looking for another part-time employee. Anyone interested can pick up an application at the county judge-executive’s office at the Courthouse Annex.

The shelter is located at 115 Adena Drive in the Midland Industrial Park.
The shelter is open 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays.