Folks looking to adopt a pet can once again look to the Harlan County Animal Shelter as an option.
The shelter, which had stopped local pet adoptions in 2013, has tweaked the process and is once again getting people together with the right dog or cat for their family.
Harlan County Friends of the Shelter Chairperson Annie Fox says HCFS works solely with the Harlan County Animal Shelter and the Harlan Fiscal Court concerning the rescue and adoption of animals that have been surrendered to or picked up by Animal Control.
“Our mission is to create more spay and neuter opportunities, open the animals up to adoption to qualified homes here in the Harlan County Area and assist in the rescue operations,” Fox said.
Fox pointed out the Harlan County Animal Shelter has also worked with non-profit animal adoption groups from places such as Chicago and Minnesota.
“We are doing transports of animals from the shelter to be adopted all across the country,” Fox said. “Our job as Friends of the Shelter is to assist in that and to also help educate the community on good practices on adopting, owning and maintaining an animal.”
Fox said Friends of the Shelter has entered into an agreement with Lincoln Memorial University veterinary school.
“In the very near future…we will be working with them and providing them animals for spaying and neutering,” Fox said. “We’ll be working with the university, transporting animals to have very cost effective and quality assured procedures done that will enable us to adopt out more animals and help with our overpopulation.”
Fox explained this partnership is a win-win situation for all groups involved, including the animals themselves.
“Their students need closely supervised hands-on experience and we need a situation where we can have affordable quality care for the animals that have been surrendered or picked up by animal control in Harlan County,” Fox said. “Our goal is to reenter those animals into a home.”
Fox explained Friends of the Shelter has worked along with the Harlan County Animal Shelter to get the animal adoption program back up and running.
“The decision to discontinue the adoption program was made when we had a percentage of animals that were adopted out and later returned to the shelter in horrible condition,” Fox explained. “The program was shut down. It was the goal of Friends of the Shelter to get that program back up. In order to do that, we needed to create guidelines for people to follow to adopt animals.”
Fox said in the past, people often adopted a pet from the shelter and later released the animal after deciding they no longer wanted it.
“We’ve researched other adoption programs with other entities across the area and we have come up with a procedure,” Fox said. “You fill out an application, you commit to a certain dollar amount that includes vaccinations, spaying and neutering and a criminal background check. You have to pass a criminal background check before you can adopt an animal.”
These procedures are intended to help assure once adopted, an animal stays in the home.
“We’re trying to avoid unnecessary euthanasia,” Fox explained.
The cost to adopt a dog is $125 and the cost for a cat is $100. This covers the cost of all adoption procedures such as vaccinations and a criminal background check.
Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley explained the background check is looking for violent criminal history.
“If someone has a violent criminal history, they’re not going to be allowed to adopt an animal,” Mosley said. “The reason behind that is if someone’s been violent to a person, it’s very easy to assume they may be violent to an animal. In an effort to protect the animals, that step was implemented to avoid potential animal abuse.”
Mosley said one of the issues many people approached him with during his campaign involved adopting an animal from the local shelter.
“I think early 2013 is when the adoption program ceased,” said Mosley. “When I got elected and we appointed the animal shelter advisory board that was basically the first mission they had, was to come up with a criteria and guidelines to re-implement the adoption program.”
Mosley said the guidelines needed to be beefed up in order to protect all parties.
“We want to make very sure it works well for both the owner of and the animal,” added Fox. “If you can’t afford basic medical care for your pet, then it’s probably best that you don’t adopt. Those fees that are being incurred are that basic medical care that every animal should have.”
Fox explained Friends of the Shelter does not make a profit.
“Every penny that Friends of the Shelter has goes towards improvements, programs, vaccinations or special equipment,” Fox said. “There’s all kinds of things that are going on.”
Mosley added the group has also split the cost of a trailer used by the Harlan County Animal Shelter.
“The Friends of the Shelter are a 100 percent volunteer organization,” Mosley explained. “There’s no paid staff, no administrative overhead.”
Harlan County Friends of the Shelter is not affiliated with any other group or organization.
“We want to have a membership drive for Friends of the Shelter on Feb. 23 at the library,” Fox said. “We’re going to have an open meeting and folks that are interested in joining can come to that meeting and apply to be a member.”
There is a membership fee of $15 per year for members of Harlan County Friends of the Shelter.
“We’ve got a separate fund started for a building fund, because at some point we’re going to have to improve the shelter’s facilities,” Fox said. “Fifteen percent of everything we raise goes into that building fund. Hopefully at one point that money will be enough so we can do a match for grants and that type of thing to do improvements to the existing facility. Our grand design is to have a new facility one day.”
Fox explained the shelter has recently started housing cats, which incurs more cost.
To inquire about adopting a pet, contact the Harlan County Animal Shelter at 606-573-8867 or stop by the shelter Monday through Friday 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
To inquire about becoming a member of Harlan County Friends of the Shelter check their website at www.hcfos.org or contact them via the Harlan County Friends of the Shelter Facebook page.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde.