Over 9,000 animals were dropped off at the Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter in Perry County last year. Many of them were puppies and kittens that were young and healthy animals. But due to severe overcrowding, and the sheer amount of animals that are being dropped off on a regular basis, 95 percent of those animals never made it to a home.
Of the small fraction of animals that were adopted, 140 were adopted in other areas through an intensive and constant rescue program that sends these animals to no-kill programs across the nation. But for the other animals that aren’t chosen by those programs, only 500 were adopted by loving local families.
Nationwide, every eight seconds an animal is put down in a shelter, that’s over 5 million animals a year. Most of these animals are put down because of overpopulation due to pet owners not having their pets spayed and neutered. Many of them are healthy animals, while only around 30 percent are old or sick.
The Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter serves four counties: Perry, Knott, Breathitt and Letcher. In each of these counties, the shelter has an animal control officer.
“Anywhere from 750 to 1,000 (pets) a month is what we are taking in,” said Tammy Noble, who chairs the animal shelter board of directors.
Many of these animals are regularly picked up in litters of pets from the same homes because the owners are not preventing their pets from reproducing.
“The dog catchers, they go around to the same houses every six months and pick up litters of cats, litters of dogs, and it is because of (a lack of) spay and neutering,” said Noble.
In an attempt to decrease the number of unwanted litters, officials at the animal shelter have begun a new program that will help cover some of the cost of having pets spayed or neutered.
“Here at the shelter, we started a program that is an income-based spay and neuter assistance program,” said Noble, adding that families with income less than $55,000 are eligible, which includes most of the people in the area.
This program gives pet owners the ability to get their cats spayed or neutered for $50, and dogs for between $60 and $65. This minimal amount of money can save the owner and the county thousands in food and pet costs for the next generation of pets.
Currently, the shelter has two veterinarians that are willing to do as many surgeries as possible each week.
“We have two vets committed, one in Breathitt County and one in Perry County, that is committed to doing so many a week,” said Noble. “If we maximize out all of those spay and neuters a year it will be 1,820 animals.”
This program just started in May, and officials are looking for pet owners that are willing to take advantage of it.
“We really, really want to get the word out,” said Noble.
The shelter has also begun a new program for people looking to bring animals in. Personnel with the shelter will come out to a home and give the animals their first round of booster shoots, and then the second round two weeks later before they’re picked up. This helps to ensure the health of the animals coming into the shelter with so many other sick animals. Over time, they hope this helps with the health of the general animal population at the shelter.
Despite all of the bad news about the huge number of animals being put down every year, the shelter is off to a good start this year by adopting and rescuing out more animals in three months than they had all of last year.
“Last year our euthanasia rate was 94.8 percent. Now, year-to-date through March, it was 73 percent,” Noble noted. “But, that it is going to increase during the summer.”
This percentage is lower than it has been at the shelter in many years, thought it is still much higher than the national average of around 60 percent. The reason for this is the sheer number of animals that are not spayed or neutered in the area verses other areas.
“(Owners should) just take responsibility, not shift responsibility, of their offspring to other people,” noted Bettina Vanover, vice-chairman of the board of directors. “If they do what they need to do as a pet owner, then this will be a non-issue.”
Right now, the shelter is housing about 100 more animals than it has capacity for. They have 38 kennels and nearly 300 dogs, and an additional 60 cats. Of these animals, 40 of them have been claimed by rescue organizations and are being sent off all over the United States, and are currently in the rescue kennels at the shelter.
These animals will be driven in a van donated to the shelter by Perry County Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble. They will then be picked up and driven in legs of the trip to their final destinations. These drivers are all volunteers that are coordinated by the rescues and the shelter.
Along with drivers for the dogs going to rescue, the shelter here in Perry County runs primarily on volunteers, and they are always in need of more. Shelter officials are currently looking for volunteers to come and help clean, play with animals, talk to visitors and help run the day-to-day work of the shelter, such as technical support for the website and updating rescues on new animals.
The shelter’s new website will soon include a volunteer form. Also on the new website is a link to the shelter’s petfinder.com page where you can see all of the adoptable animals. Adoption forms with the guidelines for adoption and the mission statement of the organization are also on this website.
Officials at the shelter are also always looking for donations. The shelter will be hosting a pancake breakfast fundraiser at Applebee’s on June 9 to go toward the operations of the shelter. They will be hosting a second pancake breakfast later at Wendy’s. They will also be hosting fundraisers at Jabo’s and their annual horse show.
A project in the near future for the animal shelter is going to be building a new shelter and moving all of the dogs. The shelter’s current lease is up and they are looking to build a larger shelter to house more animals, including abused and neglected livestock. In order to build this shelter, officials are going to use multi-county coal severance and are hoping to get a piece of land donated.
Meanwhile, there are several animals up for adoption, including several pure breed dogs such as a collie, boxer, beagles, American bull dogs, and Labradors. Noble said that often people are shocked that they have full breed dogs at the shelter.
To find out more about any of the programs and volunteer opportunities or adopting a pet, you can visit www.KyRiverAnimalShelter.com. They can also be reached at (606) 439-4064.