LA HARPE — Only two dogs have been euthanized at the Allen County Rescue Facility due to aggressive behavior, Director Andi DePriest said. Twelve more have been put down, total, in the four months the shelter has been open.
All were euthanized because they were too sick to be saved, DePriest noted.
“I don’t euthanize for space,” she said of the difficult topic.
But people, she said, “will bring a dog in that is so sick it can’t be treated, or it is injured so badly it cannot be helped,” she said.
Sammy, who lies under DePriest’s office desk, is proof that any dog that can be saved, is.
Sammy was the first dog the shelter accepted, DePriest said. He was so timid he would not let anyone near him.
Now, she said, “he goes outside on walks — without a leash. He chases a ball, and comes back when I call.”
The dog, probably neglected for years, is “a keeper,” DePriest said.
And so it is that ACARF, so young, is already at full capacity.
Currently, 57 dogs are at the shelter; at least 10 more are on a waiting list, she said. Since opening July 7, 164 dogs have been brought to the LaHarpe shelter. That’s 41 a month, more than one per day.
Some, like a batch of newborns in a back room, come together.
“She was dumped pregnant,” DePriest said of the white Parson Russell terrier. A family noticed her roaming, and very swollen, and paid the $20 surrender fee to have the shelter take her in — even though she was not their dog, DePriest said.
The little white dog, looking aged and tired, gave birth her first night at the shelter. Her pups are just a day old. Yet if the right person or family came along, she could go home to someone who might treat her better than whoever it was who put her out.
Another dog, a large black and white hound cross, looks up mournfully from his cage. He had a family who cared for him, but their living situation changed, and they were forced to give him up. They cared enough to pay his adoption fee, DePriest said.
Chico is neutered and all his shots are current. “You could walk in the door and walk right out with him if your references checked out,” DePriest said.
Instead, he, too, has been at the shelter since it opened.
He is large, middle-aged and a black dog: the hardest to adopt out, DePriest said.
At ACARF, he is another mouth to feed.
That feed does not come cheap, DePriest said, admitting she has not tabulated the daily cost of feeding all the dogs and cats at the shelter.
“I don’t want to know,” she said, lest she get depressed at the cost of operating the state-of-the-art shelter.
“When we opened, we had budgeted enough to get us through six months of food,” she said.
Come January, she plans to apply for food assistance from pet food companies Hills and Pedigree, which both help shelters that have been in operation at least six months, she said.
Until then, operating funds come from donations and fees paid to the shelter to take in strays and unwanted pets.
The fee, noted board member Art Chapman, would be considered low if people understood all it did.
ACARF charges municipalities $75 for each dog it takes in. Individuals pay $20.
“I hate for people in the country to get stuck with dogs that others dump,” Chapman said. “We wanted to keep the charge reasonable so people could afford to bring these animals in.”
Sadly, some merely dump their dogs anyway, Chapman said. “It is a problem.”
The surrender fee pays for medical care, shots and exams for the animals, Chapman said.
It also houses and feeds them.
“There’s other things,” DePriest noted, “that people don’t think about.”
Things like hand sanitizer, leashes, paper towels, electric bills and the like, she said. “Even if we have food covered, we don’t have kitty litter covered.”
“We’re running short $2,000 to $3,000 a month,” Chapman said.
But he isn’t complaining.
“People have been so good on donating,” he said.
“It’s like any other business when you first start up,” he added. “I think in three to four years we’ll have grants coming in and bequests made, but it’s going to take time.”
IF SUPPORT is shown through time, ACARF has it.
Full-time volunteer Janice Porter “keeps me in line,” DePriest said. School groups help, as well.
Iola Middle School has two service learning classes that each come twice a week, and ANW Special Education Cooperative’s high school work program drops in daily to walk dogs, do laundry and the like. They are also training to take dogs and cats into nursing homes, to socialize the animals, DePriest said.
Middle schoolers walk and bathe young dogs, DePriest said, familiarizing puppies with the sort of handling they will receive when adopted.
And many dogs are adopted, DePriest noted.
Since opening, 60 dogs have been adopted, 18 returned to owners, and 12 were sent to breed rescue foundations.
Two cats were adopted out Wednesday, for a total of 24 since opening. In that time, 55 were taken in. Cats, too, are on a waiting list as all cages are full.
But, both Chapman and DePriest noted, people have been good about fostering animals until there is space available.
“If I could videotape what goes on in here for a week, both good and bad, people would be amazed,” by the stories of those surrendering pets, DePriest said.
Some animals are neglected, and some stories, she said, break your heart.
One man came in just before closing Wednesday to surrender his family cat. His wife had just entered a nursing home, and he didn’t have the ability to care for the animal, he said. He did have her spayed to save the shelter and her future owner that cost.
All ACARF animals are listed on two websites, DePriest said. Robyn Porter donates her services as photographer and posts animals at petfinder.com. Mary Ann Dvorachek handles the ACARF website, www.acarf.com.
Through the sites, adopters have come from as far away as Colorado and Arkansas to give homes to Allen County animals.
“They wouldn’t know about us if it weren’t for petfinder,” DePriest said of the website that allows potential owners to search for particular breeds anywhere in the U.S.
If she’s lucky, DePriest said, such awareness will lead to one thing: “I’d like to work myself out of a job,” she quipped. In a perfect world, ACARF wouldn’t be needed, and all the dogs and cats would find “forever homes.”