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Since the RCACP began handling adoptions, staff gets to see some of the “good stuff."
Monday, October 14, 2013
For years the Regional Center for Animal Control and Protection, often called “the pound,” has been viewed as a jail for the Roanoke area’s animals.
While local animal rescue shelters select pets and work to adopt them out, the RCACP takes in all the others. The pound gets dogs, cats, goats, chickens and any other domesticated breed roaming the streets. The center is required to take all of them, even the sick or aggressive.
And not all of the furry inmates make it out the front door alive.
For pet lovers who work or volunteer for the organization, the job can tug at the heart strings.
However, over the past month the staff at the RCACP has finally experienced first-hand some of the same satisfaction as that in no-kill shelters: The RCACP began managing its own animal adoptions in September. So far, 36 animals have been adopted directly from the pound.
“In a facility like this you don’t get to participate in the good stuff,” said RCACP Executive Director David Flagler. “And the adoptions — well, our staff gets so excited about it. It makes it worthwhile coming to work.”
The staff, which now includes a part-time veterinarian and full-time veterinary technologist, cleans and cares for the hundreds of animals in the RCACP, giving them names like Zeus, Bubbles and Fluffernutter and appreciating their personalities. Now, they also also get to oversee meet-and-greets with the animals and pet-seekers.
Previously, adoptions at the RCACP were all handled by the Roanoke Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, next door to the RCACP on Baldwin Avenuein northeast Roanoke.
In November 2012, the four communities the pound serves — Roanoke, Roanoke County, Vinton and Botetourt County — agreed to separate operations after public criticism of euthanasia rates at the pound and questions about the organizations’ finances. A financial audit released earlier this year found no misappropriation.
Flagler was hired about five months ago and was charged with overseeing the transition, which he said has been slower than expected. One of his top priorities was getting the adoption process set up.
Having the pound adopt out its own animals often allows placement of an animal in a home more quickly than waiting for a rescue shelter to handle it.
RCACP still works closely with the no-kill shelters Angels of Assisi, Forever Homes and the neighboring SPCA, which also adopts out pets. But now, if anyone wants to adopt Seafoam, the white and gray kitten they saw while glancing at the RCACP website, the wait is cut considerably since they can deal directly with the pound.
Flagler said he doesn’t want this to deter folks from adopting at the rescue shelters.
“I say whenever a person gets a rescue from us then God bless them,” he said. “But don’t think that just by coming here you are saving an animal. If you go to any of these rescues you are accomplishing the same goal as if you get the animal from us.”
Animals in the rescue shelters are often taken from the pound, he explained, so whenever a shelter adopts out an animal it opens a spot that can be filled by an animal from the pound, saving it from possible euthanization.
During the peak summer season, the pound houses more than 300 animals.
Over the past three years, euthanasia rates for dogs in the pound have gone down. In September, 87 percent of the dogs taken in were later released. Pit-bull breeds are the toughest sell, and they make up almost half of the dogs at the pound, likely a result of overbreeding.
Euthanasia rates for cats are still high. Only about 33 percent of cats coming into the pound make it out, down from 40 percent in September 2012.
But that’s an improvement from 2010, when the live release rate for cats hovered around just 13 percent. Flagler said these numbers show that people in the community are becoming more responsible pet owners. The overall number of animals coming into the pound has dropped over the years as well.
Staff members at the pound are not the only ones enthusiastic about its new adoption policy.
Lisa O’Neill, the director of Angels of Assisi Clinic in Roanoke, has previously criticized the pound’s leadership and euthaniasia rates. Now, she praises its direct adoptions.
“We’ve wanted them to do their own adoptions for years, so we are happy to hear they are doing that.” She said she never had a problem with the pound as an entity but took issue with its “rules, procedures and leadership.” Now, she said, she is just grateful that people in Roanoke have a new place to get a pet.
Denise Hayes, the SPCA chief executive officer, was also encouraged about its former partner and said the separation, which still isn’t quite complete, has provided more help for the region’s animals.
“I think it allows us (SPCA) to focus on our mission and expand services,” she said, such as working on low-cost spay and neuter services for low-income individuals. “The important thing is for us rescue groups is to work together. That’s what’s best for the animals.”
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