Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tough times swamp shelter-VA

Pit bull puppies wriggle in the arms of their new owner—DeAndrew Lewis of Fluvanna County—as he adopts them at the Madison County Animal Shelter last week.

The local animal shelter has had its share of teary-eyed visitors recently.

In the past year, a growing number of local pet owners have decided to “surrender” their dogs and cats to the county animal shelter, according to Madison County Animal Control Officer/Shelter Manager Greg Cave.

Many of these residents can no longer afford to care for their animals due to job loss or being forced from their homes because of eviction or foreclosure, Cave said.

“They’re in tears. This is something they do not want to do. We see a lot of crying faces here,” fellow animal control officer/shelter manager Becky Cromwell said of the residents who have dropped off their pets.

This past spring is when the shelter started to see a marked increase in what they call “owner surrenders.”

In April 2008, the number of owner surrenders had doubled from just a few months before, according to Cave. By December of that year, the number had tripled, he said.

This past month the shelter received its highest number of “owner surrenders” throughout the year with 12 cats and 20 dogs that were turned over in December 2008, the animal control officer said.

Despite the increase in pets voluntarily turned over by their owners, stray animals the shelter picks up still make up the majority of the animals on hand each month.

And while many residents have been left with no other choice but to give away their pets, the shelter has also seen a rise in adoptions, they say. A greater number of adoptions from individuals as well as rescue organizations has helped the shelter to keep the number of animals its euthanizes each month down, according to Cave.

“We’re constantly on the phone all the time,” Cromwell said, referring to the many calls shelter representatives make to various animal rescue organizations in search of new homes for their animals.

In 2008, 112 animals were adopted from the shelter and 327 animals were sent to rescue organizations around the East Coast, according to shelter representatives.

The animal control officers encourage local residents to adopt pets from the shelter since they say their dogs and cats have unique personalities.

“They know the ropes. They’ve been through hard times and good times,” Cromwell said. The shelter supplies new owners with information about caring for adopted pets to help them get used to their new environments.

Photos and information about all of the animals up for adoption at the shelter are available on-line at

The Madison County Animal Shelter is at 4590 Shelby Road (Route 662) near the transfer station. Its hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday; and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

For information, call (540) 948-6945.

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