Enquirer Herald

Volunteers, York shelter work to save animals

Volunteer Robin King spends time with a small dog available for adoption at the York County Animal Shelter.
Volunteer Robin King spends time with a small dog available for adoption at the York County Animal Shelter. news@enquirerherald.com

Robin King wanted to get her fur fix without the responsibility of a new pet. So she signed up as a volunteer with the York County Animal Shelter.

That was four years ago. King is now president of the Friends of the York County Animal Shelter, a nonprofit volunteer group which has worked with the county’s animal control to improve adoption rates and cut down on euthanasia.

King and Steve Stuber, manager of York County Animal Control, said the agency and its volunteers have made a lot of progress during the past five years.

In 2009, Stuber said, the agency took in almost 10,000 animals. So far this year, Stuber said, it has taken in 2,873, and is on track to cut annual animal intake almost in half in six years.

Only three dogs and no cats were euthanized due to a lack of space during 2014, according to figures posted by the agency on York County’s website. That’s a dramatic reduction from 2010, when 841 dogs and cats were euthanized simply because the agency didn’t have enough space for them.

“It’s been hard; it’s tough,” Stuber said. “But it’s down to a manageable number. If if weren’t for the volunteers, our rescue program would be nil. It would fall apart.”

The agency still euthanizes animals, but King and Stuber said most are animals not eligible for adoption because of behavior issues, such as biting dogs and feral cats, or those put down due to medical issues.

The agency euthanized 3,789 animals in 2014, down from 5,977 euthanized animals in 2010, according to figures posted by the agency.

Stuber said he believes the agency is taking in fewer animals in large part because of better spay and neuter education and enforcement, and better control of the population of wild animals such as feral cats.

Stuber noted the county agency’s first mission isn’t animal rescue, but the public health issue of rabies control. He said there are 10 to 15 confirmed rabid animals each year in York County, and almost certainly more cases of rabid animals that are not confirmed.

“Everything else is second to rabies control. Rabies kills people,” he said.

King said Friends of the York County Animal Shelter needs of volunteers and animal foster families. Volunteers walk and spend time with animals at the shelter and provide transportation for them when they leave for foster homes or for other rescue agencies.

Foster families, she said, provide temporary homes for dogs and cats that are removed from the shelter while permanent homes are sought or the animals are waiting to be picked up by other rescue groups.

“We are a very small group, and we’re hoping to grow,” said King. She said the group has about 30 active members, including transport volunteers and foster families, some of whom never visit the shelter.

King said a group reorganization, the help of social media and contacts with other animal rescue groups across the country have helped the friends improve the rate of animal rescue.

She said the friends sends out an email blast with a list of rescue animals each night. The list goes to animal rescue groups across the country, many of them in the northeast.

“We have been very fortunate in the last six months,” King said. “We have had better than a 95 percent success rate. Most of the animals who go out on that list, we are able to save.”

King said the group also works to educate people about animal laws and animal care, including the importance of spaying and neutering.

“We have a severe need just to educate the public about the importance of spaying and neutering, and making sure your pet, especially during hot summer months and cold winter, has the appropriate shelter,” she said.

Chaining animals, which is illegal in York County, is another problem, she said. “We still have people who are chaining their dogs to trees, or old car bumpers, and that is against the law in York County,” she said.

King said sometimes adopted animals are returned to the shelter by owners who may not have thought through the process of caring for a pet.

For example, she said one woman returned a dog she had adopted from the shelter because it wasn’t housebroken. Another man returned a puppy he had adopted after it grew up and became bigger.

She said the volunteer group has worked to cut down on the rate of adoption returns by offering adoption counseling. The counseling is a series of questions that helps people think through the responsibility of pet ownership, she said. It also helps them choose an animal that is appropriate for their needs and lifestyle.

King said volunteers have been able to improve outcomes and adoptions for animals by working as partners with the shelter staff. “Working in a team environment with the shelter staff, our success rate has gone absolutely through the roof,” she said.

Want to help?

The Friends of York County Animal Shelter needs volunteers. They may help in exercising, socializing and training animals, providing adoption information, doing publicity, marketing, public education, volunteer transporting and other jobs. Time and mileage may be tax deductible. Volunteers must be 18; orientation and training are required. For more information, call 803-818-6485 or visit the shelter at 713 Justice Blvd., York.

Want to adopt?

Cats, kittens, puppies and dogs are available for adoption from York County Animal Control. The fee is $77; a government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license is required.

The adoption center is at 713 Justice Blvd., York, off S.C. 5 and across from the Moss Justice Center. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

For details, call 803-628-3190.