Animal shelter is at full capacity: Adopters needed

Suzette Lowe

The Jackson County Animal Shelter is full.

There are currently 52 dogs ands 46 cats being housed at the shelter located in Cottageville.

“What we call the ‘kitten season' came later this year for some reason,” said Jackson County Humane Officer Teresa Hager. “Honestly, we don’t usually have this many cats and kittens.”

Hager said one factor that may be driving the high number is free kittens being given away, particularly through Facebook.

“So many times, the ones giving away and the ones taking them don’t spay or neuter,” she said. “That just makes the cat population explode and then we get calls.”

Shelter worker, Sandy Hatley, checks on the kittens at the shelter.

The non-profit organization, Operation Fancy Free (OFF), focuses on the feral cat population in the county, which makes the shelter able to address non-feral cats and kittens.

“Kathy and Brian Stone do a fantastic job,” Hager said. “But it gets discouraging to all of us when the absolute necessity to spay and neuter isn’t being done in many cases.”

Of the 52 dogs at the shelter, 17 are puppies. Hager said that the shelter seldom gets dogs that are completely healthy. That’s where a local veterinary clinic comes to the rescue.

“Without Ripley Paws, I don’t know what we’d do,” said Hager. “They are ready on a minute’s notice to take in our dogs and cats for any needs they may have. As for spaying and neutering, they are a lifesaver for the shelter.”

Housing the dogs takes some creativity. There are 13 kennels inside the main building, 16 in other buildings and various other options, including the outside exercise area.

“We make do,” stated Hager. “Our two German shepherds are outside mostly.”

The answer to the shelter’s issues with overcrowding is adoption. That can be done directly from the shelter or in the case of some, transporting out of state.

A male collie mix named Suede is ready for his forever home.

“Several years ago, Bobbie Chancey connected us to a transport group out of Pennsylvania,” Hager said. “Trish Trans has been phenomenal in getting our animals to rescue and adoption. Sometimes Dreama Lemaster and I transport directly, through funding and a van provided by Animal Rights Furever. Over the years, we have had 102 dogs and 23 cats rescued.”

For Hager and her crew of seven part-time workers, their resident animals and their stories become very personal.

“With dogs, we only take in strays and very rarely one that is owner surrendered, and then only if we are sure we can get it rescued or adopted,” Hager explained. “We really work with our animals to get them comfortable with people. Some of our cats and dogs come to us in pretty bad shape.”

Hager speaks fondly of a particular cat they named G-Pa.

“If you could have seen him when he came to us, your heart would break,” she said. “His white fur was all matted and even yellow in places because of his surroundings. We kept trimming him until he ended up with a mohawk, but we finally just had him shaved. Now, he’s healthy with snow white fur and the most loving cat. He’s more than ready for a family.”

G-Pa is ready for adopton.

Some animals have very specific needs.

“Casper, our 130-pound lab Great Pyrenees mix, needs a simple home with no kids, probably with a male owner and a fenced-in yard,” said Hager. “He’s been with us for nine months but I know there’s a place out there for this wonderful animal. We love Casper.”

Hank, who has been at the shelter for a year, is a redbone mastiff mix while Casper, who has called the shelter home for nine months, is a mixture of lab and Great Pyrenees.

To adopt an animal from the shelter requires an application and a fee to cover costs. All the animals available are included in a photo album at the shelter. If a person is drawn to an animal, a staff person brings him from the back.

“We don’t let people go back to the animals anymore,” Hager said. “The get too riled up and excited and it’s hard to calm them down. We’ve found this is the best way.”

Once the application is returned, Hager has a conversation to make sure the animals and potential owner are the right fit. Hager said she discloses everything known about the animals.

“We tell the good and the bad,” she said. “We want this to be the perfect situation for both the person and the potential pet.”

The cost for adoption of male dogs is $90, female dogs is $100. For cats, females are $60 and males are $50. If an animal comes to the shelter already spayed or neutered, the cost for dogs is $25 and cats $15.

With all the animals at the shelter, exercising and interaction is extremely important. Volunteers are essential. Once a week, Hearts & Hands 4 Paws from Parkersburg comes to the Jackson County shelter to walk and work with the dogs.

“They do more than just walk them,” said Hager. “They periodically work with them along the path.”

Plans are being made to offer an opportunity one Saturday a month, beginning in August, for local volunteers to do the same. Each person will be trained in basic interaction and socialization techniques for the animals paired with them.

A new animal shelter is also being planned. Several years in the making, the Jackson County Commission is moving forward with funding options to build a new shelter near the current facility.

“We are blessed to be supported financially by our commission,” said Hager, who has been the humane officer since 2016. “But we are so excited about the possibilities once we get the new shelter in place.”

As far as Hager is concerned, one thing will never change regarding the shelter’s animals.

“We will not euthanize these fur babies unless the veterinarian determines that illness requires it,” she said. “We want them all to have homes, but we know some of our animals will be with us for a long time.”

For information on adoption, call 304-372-6064 or visit the Jackson County Animal Shelter on Facebook.