By Joanna D. Samson, FOTAS Vice President
Prior to 2009, a trip to the Aiken County Animal Shelter was a death sentence for the unfortunate animals consigned to the shelter by their owners or animal control. Intake numbers often soared to 6000 or more each year, which meant that at any given time, 210 animals resided in the tiny dark and outdated shelter designed to hold 100.
The annual euthanasia rate hovered consistently around 95%.
In 2009, FOTAS was formed to provide the County with financial support and volunteers to produce a better outcome for the shelter animals. Things began to improve.
In 2009 and 2010, the euthanasia rate dropped to 89% and 85%, respectively.
In 2011 and 2012, the euthanasia rate dropped again to 75%.
Thanks to the combined commitment and efforts of the County and FOTAS, the new shelter opened its doors in early 2013. Things really improved for the County’s homeless animals.
In 2013, the euthanasia rate dropped again to 71%.
In 2014, the euthanasia rate dropped to a remarkable and record-breaking 54%.
During the first ten months of this year, 2015, the overall euthanasia rate has dropped to 40% – that’s right… 40%!! In January and August, the monthly rates dropped to an all-time low of 25%.
That’s real progress: a 95% euthanasia rate to 40% in 5 years. It is not an accident.
Modern shelter management, dedicated animal control, and FOTAS’ continued support, have made the difference.
Shelter Manager Martha Chadwick has reformed the standard operating procedures at the shelter consistent with industry standards to ensure proper, uniform and accountable care for the animals.
Shelter vet Dr. Lisa Levy has established proper medical protocol to make certain the animals are inoculated, fed, treated, spayed and neutered.
Shelter employees are cross-trained (thanks to funding from FOTAS) to maximize productivity and flexibility on the job – essential to a high-volume public shelter with limited staffing resources.
FOTAS volunteers walk and socialize the animals virtually every day, and FOTAS volunteer trainer Suzy Cohen trains volunteers and works with the animals as needed, making them more attractive adoption prospects.
FOTAS volunteers provide much needed administrative support and organize on-site and off-site events and fundraisers.
FOTAS, working with shelter staff, organized and paid incurred expenses for the transfer of 718 animals this year alone, primarily to no-kill rescue partners in the north.
Although annual intake numbers persist in the 4400-5000 range and will continue to do so until every citizen spays or neuters their pets, FOTAS has paid for the spay/neuter of more animals than any other organization in the County: 476 pets and community cats through October of this year, for a total of 1411 since 2013.
Is the shelter perfect? By no means. Can it be improved? Of course. But by every metric (except intake, which is beyond our control) the County, FOTAS and you, the supporting public, have significantly improved the condition of and the outcome for the County’s homeless animals.
Now that’s something to be thankful for this holiday week.
God Bless you and your family.
Their lives are in our hands.