Sups get update on animal shelter progress

Since the adoption of a resolution in December 2009 no healthy animals have been euthanized at the Chesterfield County animal shelter, officials said recently.

At the Board of Supervisors Dec. 15 meeting, County Administrator Jay Stegmaier said there’d been a request to update the board on the steps taken in the past year to improve animal welfare in the county.

“The board is aware that it was about a year ago that you asked us to take significant steps to improve or change where we were going with the animal control and animal welfare efforts in the county, and we want to bring you up to date on the success of some of those efforts,” he said.

In December 2009, the Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution outlining goals for the County Animal Shelter and directing Stegmaier to “expedite efforts to reach” those goals. Among the goals outlined in the resolution was initiating a process  to develop a plan and partnership process to reduce the number of homeless animals in the shelter, with the ultimate goal of becoming a facility where “the lives of all healthy companion animals will be saved.”

From January to November of this year, six animal control officers responded to 8,885 calls for service, Police Capt. Steve Neal said. In that time, animal control has housed 3,306 animals; of those, 2,276 animals, or 68.8 percent, were adopted, returned or transferred to other agencies, and 738 animals, or 22.3 percent, were euthanized. A total of 63 animals died while either under control or care at the shelter, he said.

Last year, 1,409 animals were euthanized, Neal said, so the number of euthanized animals dropped by nearly 50 percent. At the time the statistics were compiled, 229 animals were on hand at the shelter.

The first “whereas” clause of the resolution directed county police and animal control to implement a variety of initiatives with outside organizations, Neal said. Animal control has partnered with about 50 rescue organizations, he said, and 535 animals were transferred to those agencies this year.

“In the middle of the year this year, one of our police department employees suggested that maybe the sheriff’s workforce could help out with some work at the animal shelter,” he said. Since July, five work release inmates have worked at the shelter for five hours every day, potentially saving county citizens $49,000, he said.

From January through Nov. 24, 24 volunteers have contributed 8,737 hours assisting animal control, for a potential savings of about $182,166, he said.

Other efforts related to the resolution’s implementation include an updated animal control website, including online reporting forms, and the Canine Carnival, which was a “smashing success,” he said.

“The animal control website, it was almost totally revamped,” he said. “We have a lot of information for our citizens on the animal control website that we didn’t have before.” Shelter statistics are also online, he said, and those are updated monthly.

A few months ago, animal control asked for permission to use some of the available Department of Motor Vehicles “Pet Friendly” money to create some special programs, he said. Those programs, which offer reduced adoption fees to senior citizens and those willing to adopt animals with special needs, are now in place, Neal said.

Volunteers can now come to the shelter and help exercise the animals, he said, and animal control has an expensive partnership with the Chesterfield Technical Center’s veterinary tech students.

Animal control has signed memorandums of understanding with the Richmond Animal League and Chesterfield Humane Society, he said, and also adopted the Asilomar Accords and Pet Matrix, which is how animals are evaluated when they enter the shelter. A new statistical database was created to report in accordance with the accords, he said.

Since the resolution was adopted, there have been no healthy animals euthanized in Chesterfield County, he said.

Some significant security and computer upgrades were completed at the shelter this year, he said, and that work was paid for with asset forfeiture funds. The shelter also now offers a fenced “get acquainted” area where people can spend time with a pet they are considering adopting, he said.

Also, earlier this year, the board approved an ordinance change that guaranteed that all animals adopted from the shelter would be spayed or neutered before adoption, he said, which helps control the county’s pet population.

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