HAZARD — Nearly 3 million unwanted cats and dogs are euthanized every year, according to the Humane Society of the United States. One local business owner, however, is looking to reduce that number in Perry County, and has helped send more than 200 dogs and cats to rescue shelters or adoptive families in the past year.
Beth Back owns and operates Barnyard Boutique, a pet grooming business in Hazard. While she noted she has always worked to help stray animals, this year she doubled her efforts and also maintains a kennel where she accepts unwanted animals and works to find new homes for them.
“We are trying to save as many lives as we can,” Back said.
In addition to her kennel, Back periodically opens her shop to host low-cost spay and neuter clinics, which are run by Dr. Walker Logan, a veterinarian from Paris, Ky. She hosted her third clinic of 2013 on Saturday, where pet owners could get their pets spayed or neutered, along with vaccination and other care, for under $100.
Sixty appointments were made for Saturday’s clinic, and more than 100 animals were cared for during the first two events earlier this year. These clinics can play an important role in combating pet overpopulation, Back said.
“If you spay or neuter them, you’re essentially saving thousands of animals from being born and typically being unwanted,” she said.
And while the clinics are helping to prevent further overpopulation, Back’s kennel is helping animals already born. When she opened her business on Dawahare Drive she found herself with a kennel big enough to hold several animals. This presented her with the opportunity to hold unwanted pets and work to try and find homes for them.
She spoke with an attorney and applied for 501 (c)(3) status, meaning she can accept tax deductible donations. She achieved that status earlier this year, and is currently running her kennel completely from donations and what she pays out of her own pocket.
“We do what we can when we can,” she added.
Back does not euthanize in her kennel, and keeps animals as long as she can to help them get adopted. She accepts animals at her shop as space permits, and then advertises what is available. Prospective owners can fill out an application and undergo a screening process to determine what type of pet would be the best fit. She noted people can’t just walk in off the street and pick up a dog and leave.
“It’s not like you go to Walmart and buy something,” she said, adding the animals she cares for many times come from homes where they were either neglected or generally not in a good situation. “It’s like children we’re adopting.”
Finding a new home isn’t an easy process. Back is able to work with the Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter in Perry County, which itself actively works to send animals to rescue shelters or find adoptive owners. Back also works with the Woodstock Animal Welfare Organization, which has its own contacts to help find new homes.
“It’s a total network process,” she explained. “We all try our best to work together to save as many lives as we can.”
But as with everything else, the slow economy is having an effect on animal adoptions as well. With local job losses donations have been slow this year. And because Back opts not to euthanize any animals, if her outtake is slow then so is her intake of new animals.
“If we’re full we can’t take in anymore,” she said. “And we hate that because they will go to shelters.”
Despite the slowdown, Back said she will continue to maintain her kennel and offer services to help fight pet overpopulation in the area. Anyone who wants to help, either with donations or to volunteer during a future spay and neuter clinic, can contact the Barnyard Boutique at 606-487-9290.