News

Big changes at a little shelter

by Denise LeBeau

Entering the shelter could have meant curtains for Chaos, a rottweiler mix. Large, rambunctious dogs make up a big part of the pet population of many shelters, and finding great adopters who can handle a big dog’s enthusiastic love and energy — well, it can be a challenge. When Chaos lost his home, he was fortunate to enter a shelter where recent progressive changes gave him the second chance he needed.

St. George Animal Shelter is dedicated to being a no-kill shelter, so staff reached out to Best Friends to help save some of the most at-risk animals — big dogs and community (free-roaming) cats. The results speak volumes about the partnership. The shelter has maintained a better than 90 percent save rate since January 2014. And it’s just getting started.

A sea change

To increase the save rate, St. George Animal Shelter joined the No-Kill Utah (NKUT) Coalition. NKUT is an initiative led by Best Friends Animal Society that brings together passionate individuals, city shelters and animal welfare organizations to end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters. Best Friends provided the shelter with a regional outreach expert, Kelly Koeller, who also is a community cat coordinator. Her job is to assist with helping get animals out of the shelter, and prevent more from going in.  

One of the ways the shelter has revved up the process of finding great homes for cats is by offering adoption specials. “Working with Best Friends has not only provided us with helpful marketing opportunities, where we can participate in such events as Back in Black (an adoption promotion for black pets), but it has gotten us thinking about other ways we can run with marketing ideas,” says Sgt. Ivor Fuller of the St. George shelter. “We have a half-off adoption fee Friday, which was inspired by Best Friends and is getting more cats into homes.”

In addition to helping promote adoptions, Best Friends provides spay/neuter surgeries for adoptable pets. According to Sgt. Fuller, the service not only saves the shelter a lot of money, it moves the animals into homes faster because Best Friends also helps with transportation.

Big news for community cats

The community cat coordinator fields calls about free-roaming cats and helps trap, neuter and return cats throughout the St. George area. “We’ve been champions of TNR (trap/neuter/return) for quite some time and we’re really starting to see a lot of benefits, like a dramatic drop in kittens entering the shelter,” says Sgt. Fuller. “The long-term payoff of TNR is tremendous for community cats.”

Since assigning a Best Friends community cat coordinator to the shelter in January, the shelter has not killed any community cats due to lack of space.

Chaos goes home

Since the shelter is a member of the NKUT Coalition, it is eligible for help from Best Friends for pets who have been difficult to place. Best Friends helped to network Chaos to a wider range of rescue groups, finally getting him to Second Chance Rottweiler Rescue, Inc., where he was adopted by a retired gentleman who bonded right away with Chaos and will spend his time doting on him. For a dog like Chaos, having more options is important. He needed an experienced person who understands his breed and could further train him to be a great companion.

“It’s extremely important to work with our community partners, and Best Friends is our biggest partner,” says Sgt. Fuller. “We are looking forward to working together to be able to do even more for the animals in the future.”

Get involved

Keep the successes coming by joining Best Friends: https://secure.bestfriends.org/page/contribute/give?default_amt=100

Learn more about the Best Friends NKUT initiative:  http://nkut.org/

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