30 March 2015
By Joanna Dunn Samson, FOTAS Vice President
One sunny Sunday morning last year (March 2nd to be exact), Chief Animal Control Officer Bobby Arthurs and a group of FOTAS volunteers walked the adoptable dogs from the appallingly outdated old shelter to the newly constructed state-of-the-art shelter one block south on Wire Road.
It was an extraordinary scene – one long line of happy dogs pulling smiling volunteers across the lawn to their spacious new kennels. Although I knew in my head the dogs were happy because they were out on a walk and feeling our joy, in my heart I imagine they knew their prospects had just taken a major turn for the better.
They were right. The next morning, the shelter opened to the public and almost immediately Brooke, Jacob and Charlotte Jones adopted a border collie mix named Debbie and made her a part of their family. Since then, FOTAS and shelter staff have been moving animals on to new homes at record rates.
This month marks the first anniversary of the new Aiken County Animal Shelter. In the past year, 2255 shelter animals were successfully re-homed. Adoptions increased 38% from the previous year. Transfers to other no-kill shelters (part of a network of sister agencies developed by FOTAS) increased an astounding 63%. In fact, since the new shelter opened, virtually all the animals moved to the adoption floor have found homes thanks to the dedication of FOTAS volunteers and County staff.
What’s more, the number of FOTAS volunteers has soared to over 225 civic-minded citizens because the open, cheerful public areas and the landscaped, fenced-in play yards (another FOTAS contribution) make time spent at the shelter a pleasure. FOTAS volunteers worked an estimated 14,000 hours last year (the equivalent of 7 full-time positions) and have become indispensable partners with County staff.
In addition, FOTAS has invested $150,000 over the past year for the continuing needs of the new shelter, ranging from large ticket items like a new FOTAS van for transfers and off-site events to more routine items such as leashes, collars and grooming supplies.
Finally, FOTAS has invested $35,000 in eliminating the source of many of the problems at the County shelter – overpopulation of unwanted pets. To date, FOTAS has fixed nearly 950 citizen-owned pets and community cats.
By any measure, this first year at the new shelter has been a success, perhaps evidenced most notably by this fact: in the past year, the euthanasia rate dropped from 71% to 54%. In the past two months, the euthanasia rate dropped in January to a monthly record low of 25% and in February to 35%. Now, that’s progress.
There is still so much to do. Intake numbers are still disturbingly high, especially in the summer months. High intake means more volunteer manpower is needed to compliment the efforts of County staff. We need to continue to supplement the County’s financial resources to properly care for all these animals.
The sustained generosity and commitment of the Aiken community is essential for FOTAS to continue this important work. Together we made a difference in the past year, and together we will soldier on in the future to achieve our mission – to never euthanize another adoptable animal. Their lives are truly in our hands.
Thank you and God bless for your enduring and profound kindness.
PETS OF THE WEEK
BURKHARD — Male, German Shepherd, 4 years old, 74 lbs — $70
SCOOBY — Male, Domestic Medium Hair, 3 years old, 8.2 lbs. — $35