A lot of things have changed at the Aiken County Animal Shelter over the past ten years since Bobby Arthurs became the County’s Chief Enforcement Officer and Shelter Manager, and he has been witness to it all.
When he started in 2007, intake at the Shelter was 5,000-6,000 animals a year and 10% or fewer made it out. Two and three dogs were confined to a crate in a building with no ventilation and open waste trenches, and cats were housed in the equivalent of a dark closet. There was no outside play area, no FOTAS, no volunteers.
It was a big transition for a man who had previously worked as a park ranger, who had spent his days outside in nature helping hikers and kayakers.
Now, Bobby comes to work at a modern, properly-built shelter, where every adoptable dog has his own indoor/outdoor kennel, where cats spend their days catnapping in a colony in a separate building, where fenced-in exercise yards are spread over the property, where every animal gets a shot at a second chance.
Which improvements at the Shelter stand out most in his mind? He can’t narrow it down—the cheery new building that opened in 2014, the unwavering support of the County, the extraordinary medical team, the dedicated Shelter staff, FOTAS as his partner, or the volunteers … so many amazing volunteers.
“He really appreciates us,” says Sandra Procter, who has volunteered with FOTAS from the very beginning (our third volunteer, to be exact). “He greets us by name with a big smile … every time. Bobby’s gratitude makes us feel good and makes it all worthwhile.”
Once everyone had settled in at the new shelter (with modern air exchange, heating and cooling, and waste elimination systems to protect the health of the animals), Bobby and FOTAS began to implement new programs and policies to give every animal the best opportunity to find a new home.
Things like supervised play groups for the dogs to reduce the stress of shelter life (dogs are, after all, social pack animals), or managing intake of animals from citizens, or implementing the County’s RTF (Return to Field) program for cats to control the growth of feral cat colonies and protect the health of community cats, or participating in the national Clear the Shelter Day every year, to name a few.
“Bobby is a joy to work with,” says Kathy Jacobs, FOTAS Program Director. “He is a warm, open-minded manager with a big heart, always willing to try new things, big and small, to help the animals and find them homes. For example, for as long as I can remember, he picks up a dog at the Shelter every Monday morning at 5 a.m. and travels to Augusta to show that animal off on the 6 a.m. morning show on Channel 12. That’s dedication.”
Has all his managerial effort, willingness, and attention made a difference?
You bet it has. Under Bobby’s leadership, the live release rate has increased over the past ten years from 5-10% to 84%.
That’s a very big deal.
Their lives are in our hands.
By Joanna D. Samson, FOTAS Vice President
By the Numbers
In 2017, FOTAS and the Aiken County Animal Shelter fixed 1,120 community cats and returned them to the field.