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Animal shelter to get new truck

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By Lisa King

Shelby County Animal Shelter officials were elated to learn they were getting a new truck, because the shelter's two existing vehicle's have gone to the dogs.

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“Both of them have almost 150,000 miles on them,” Animal Control Officer James Collins said.

The Shelby County Fiscal Court approved the purchase of the new F-150 Ford pickup truck at $16,304, which includes a bed liner and topper, from O'Brian Ford Mercury.

Rusty Newton, acting Animal Control Director, said the new truck will be an asset to the shelter.

“We really need it with all the animal control calls that we respond to each day,” he said.

Collins agreed. “Sometimes we take almost 40 calls a week, though we average less than that,” he said. “Typically, this is not the busiest time of the year, but with the economy the way it is, we are busier than usual.”

Collins opened the door of the “puppy room,” which contained at least one occupant per cage. In most cages, two pairs of sad, puppy-dog eyes stared out. One little fellow started wagging his tail immediately and tried his best to poke his wet nose through the bars.

The same story was evident in the cat room, with a barrage of meowing beginning as soon as the door opened.

“We have 52 dogs and 48 cats,” Collins said, “as well as one of the lowest euthanasia rates in the country, at 14 percent.”

According to the American Humane Association, an estimated 9.6 million animals are euthanized in the United States every year, and out of 1,000 shelters responding to a survey, 2.7 million of 5.3 million animals, or 64 percent, were euthanized.

Also, 56 percent of dogs and 71 percent of cats that enter shelters were euthanized. Fifteen percent of dogs and two percent of cats were reunited with their owners, and 25 percent of dogs and 24 percent of cats were adopted.

Collins said Kentucky state law requires dogs to be held for five days and cats for three days in order to give their owners time to claim them. After that, however, they can be euthanized at the shelter's discretion.

“We don't euthanize any animals here unless they are too ill to recover or have a contagious disease or are too aggressive to be adopted,” he said. “If we couldn't send 85 percent of them out of here alive, I couldn't do this job; I love animals too much.”

The shelter took in 952 animals in 2008. Of those, 176 were destroyed.

Collins said what keeps him motivated is knowing he is doing his part to help the animals.

“It's a great sense of purpose knowing that I'm doing something to let these animals live another day,” he said, stroking the tiny head of the one-pound, 13-week-old Chihuahua that he adopted personally because of the puppy's numerous health problems.

His love for animals was apparent as he patiently let “Carlos” chew on his finger.

Collins also promotes pet adoptions on petfinder.com, a Web site that he uses as a marketing tool for finding homes for the animals.

“People can see pictures of our dogs and cats and can fill out an application online,” he said.

This Web site allows people from all over the country to pick out a pet. Newton said people have come from as far away as Alaska to get a pet from here.

Or sometimes local volunteers take the pet to the adoptive family, Collins said, volunteering their time and paying for gas out of their own pockets. “People just don't realize how hard it is to place as many animals as we do,” said Newton, who has three dogs himself.

The animal shelter works with the Shelby County Humane Society to help keep the pet population under control, Collins said, dealing mostly with strays and animal cruelty and neglect cases. The humane society concentrates on spaying and neutering and taking the overflow from the shelter.

Other local organizations, such as LifeBridge for Animals, also helps to place homeless animals.

Newton, who is also deputy county judge executive, said the Fiscal Court helps to fund the shelter, whose budget is $160,000 a year. He added that the public helps, too, with many people making regular donations. Still, more is needed.

“If people would like to donate pet food, towels, or things like that, we would really appreciate it,” he said.

For a list of needed items, or for more information about adopting a pet, call the shelter at 633-0009.