Aiken Tech Class Boosts Shelter Staff’s Value and Efficiency

By Bob Gordon, FOTAS Communications Director and Volunteer, 

The Aiken County Animal Shelter’s (ACAS) staff and a small group of FOTAS foster volunteers are hitting the books hard after hours. During three-hour classes held twice a week at the shelter, staff members are reviewing PowerPoint slides, engaging in discussion, observing animal behavior and practicing their new knowledge through hands-on exercises with shelter dogs and cats.

It is all part of a special curriculum designed by Aiken Technical College to increase the shelter staff’s expertise and improve their job skills. Completely funded by FOTAS, the Kennel Technician class is expected to help ACAS employees become even more effective, well-rounded and flexible in their job duties.

Martha Chadwick, manager of the County Shelter, came up with the idea with Dr. Steven F. Simmons, Dean of Business, Computer Technology and Training at ATC, and Dr. Katie Comerford, DVM, is teaching the class. It is the first partnership among ATC, FOTAS and the County.

“When I approached Dr. Simmons about creating a program for Aiken County, he was genuinely interested in tailoring a specific course that would positively impact the homeless animals of Aiken County, as he and his family are also FOTAS volunteers,” Martha said.

The classes began Nov. 3 and will continue until Dec. 17. ATC supplies the instructional books and other reading materials.

The class curriculum has much of the same content as ATC’s vet assistant course but was tweaked and tailored for shelter professionals since issues and needs that come up at an animal shelter are different from those at a veterinary office or hospital.

The County Shelter’s small staff is expected to be more proficient with this new training, able to help each other with their tasks and work more as a team. For example, by learning how to properly and safely hold an animal to draw blood, insert a microchip or examine an injury or ailment, the staff can assist the vet techs if needed. Or by learning the symptoms of common medical conditions in dogs and cats, and being better able to spot signs of canine and feline illnesses, the staff can more readily alert the shelter’s vet, Dr. Lisa Levy, and her assistants to the situation so proper medical care can be administered right away.

Receiving this added education will allow the staff to cross-train for various positions and make it easier for staff members to fill in for their fellow employees if they are forced to be absent due to such unforeseen circumstances such as illness or personal emergency.

“This is a wonderful new partnership with Aiken Technical College,” said FOTAS President Jennifer Miller. “Everyone came together for this project, which will ultimately result in giving the best care possible to the orphaned dogs and cats at the shelter. This is the result of a true team effort, including the community, whose donations made this class possible.”

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