Oklahoma City Animal Shelter strives to continue improving live release rate

BY MICHAEL KIMBALL mkimball@opubco.com Published: March 25, 2012

“The public-private partnership gives the most leverage to everybody's assets,” said national ASPCA President Ed Sayres. “You're really not looking at individual assets anymore, but animals.”

Donations and grant money funded new positions at the shelter. The humane society built a quarantine facility on the site, where adoptable dogs can be screened for health issues and shipped to states that need more pets. Community outreach programs grew. The city committed to not reducing its budget despite the inflow of private dollars. Veterinarians stepped up by providing low-cost spay and neuter surgeries. Creative programs like one that scoops up stray cats before sterilizing them and returning them to neighborhoods helps reduce the number of animals that come through the door.

The future

More aggressive and targeted efforts could get the city from a live release rate of nearly 60 percent projected for this year to the 75 percent hoped for by the end of 2013, Counts and English said.

ZIP codes in Oklahoma City from which the largest percentage of animals at the shelter come from are being targeted for outreach programs that help low-income families sterilize their pets to reduce the number of new litters. Some of the effects from other programs already under way should have an increasing effect on the live release rate this year and next. Efforts to line up more people to foster litters of adoptable puppies and sick dogs could save lives, as will a new humane society program to ship adoptable surplus to states with pet shortages.

But local animal experts are clear about what they need most to control Oklahoma City's pet population: you. The public holds the key to not only reducing the live release rate, but reducing the overall number of incoming animals more quickly.

“We need the public to foster animals, we need the public to spay and neuter their animals, we need them to volunteer, we need them to adopt (pets) instead of buy (from a store or breeder),” Counts said. “Despite popular opinion, there are enough homes for these animals. If people would just choose to adopt instead of buy, there would be enough homes.”

It's working so far. The shelter's cat rooms were uncharacteristically sparsely populated in recent weeks. Though that's partly because of the success of various efforts by the city and humane society, it's also because spring and summer is the busiest intake season at the shelter, so more cats are coming.

Earlier this month, Jon Gary, the shelter's unit operations manager, sat in an adoption room scratching behind the ears of a cat curled up on a blanket covering a wicker love seat. Gary said the progress in the live release rate has made it easier to come to work over the years. More progress would make it easier still.

“I've been here a little over 12 years, and in that time period, the changes have been dramatic,” Gary said as the cat soaked up the attention. “I'm still here today because of the way it was 12 years ago. I wanted to change that. I wanted to make a difference. To finally see that happen here in Oklahoma City is tremendous, and it wouldn't happen without the community effort.”

How to help

The animal shelter, at SE 29 and Bryant Avenue, is open for adoptions from noon to 5:45 p.m. every day except holidays. Every pet adopted from the shelter is current on vaccinations, spayed or neutered, tested for diseases and treated for worms.

For more information or to ask about volunteering and donating money or supplies, call the shelter at 297-3100, visit okc.gov/animalwelfare, contact the Central OK Humane Society at 286-1229 or okhumane.org, or contact the ASPCA at (800) 628-0028 or aspca.org.



We need the public to foster animals, we need the public to spay and neuter their animals, we need them to volunteer, we need them to adopt (pets) instead of buy (from a store or breeder). Despite popular opinion, there are enough homes for these animals. If people would just choose to adopt instead of buy, there would be enough homes.”

Christy Counts,

president of the Central OK Humane Society

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