By John Robert
The saying, “If you build it, they will come,” is often used either to support recreation or to justify the construction of something that does not immediately seem necessary. Rarely would it apply to an animal shelter, and hardly in a sense that is intuitively desired.
However, the Woodhaven/Trenton Animal Shelter offers evidence of this principle at work. In 2005, a new shelter was built at 21860 Van Horn Road that is luxurious compared to the old facility on West Jefferson Avenue, which Animal Control Officer Laura Jensen called “the equivalent of a garage.”
Becky Swayze, who has been with the shelter since 1997 as an animal control officer, and Jensen, who has been with the shelter since 2005, are glad to have the new facilities, which offer more space for them and for the animals.
However, thanks to the recession, it remains an uphill battle as many pet owners who became unemployed in the weak economy were forced to give up their animal companions in hopes the shelter would find a better home for them.
Enough cats have been surrendered that the shelter has been forced to temporarily reject owner-surrenders to guarantee they have room for strays.
Yet, there is positive news. The location has increased traffic through the shelter.
“A lot of people come just to visit the animals, which is great,”said Jensen, “because it gives the animals a break, gives them some attention.”
That traffic also has resulted in more volunteers. Currently, the shelter has a volunteer pool of about 12 people, which they would love to grow.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Swayze. Jensen continued, “If we get more people, it gives them the opportunity to do projects outside the shelter. They could do fundraisers, donation drives, whatever, so there will be other options besides working hands-on in the shelter.”
In order to volunteer, one only needs to stop by the shelter and fill out an application. Volunteers must be 18, and after being screened, available hours are worked out.
If one cannot give time, but would still like to contribute, the shelter gladly accepts other donations. On the wish list right now are dog and cat food (either wet or dry), kitten milk (canned or dry), cat litter (preferably clay), pet toys, laundry soap, bleach, paper towels, 55-gallon trash bags, and dish washer soap. Outside the shelter is a bin where donations can be dropped off if there is no one available at the moment to directly accept them.
Any other donations, of course, are welcome, including cash, which help pay for medical procedures incoming animals need. The shelter will be attending the Dogs Days of Summer Swim with a booth, accepting donations, signing up volunteers, and selling some various items. The event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Kennedy Aquatic Center.
Swayze and Jensen are still improving the facility, such as the recent installation of a music system to help soothe the animals.
The shelter offers prospective adopters a room to meet with animals (as well as a neutral location for current pets to meet the possible new ones), but is exceptionally flexible in helping people decide if a pet is for them, including letting people on the fence take one home overnight to see if it is a good fit.
Both officers do more than “control” the animals, also acting in many cases as advocates for them. That devotion is contagious, and volunteers can expect to feel the same.
If interested in adopting a pet, the shelter is open to the public Mondays through Fridays, 8-9 a.m., 2-3 p.m. and 5-6 p.m., as well as by appointment. There is a $25 adoption fee, with an additional $25 fee for animals that are not spayed or neutered, which is returned once the animal has been spayed or neutered. They also do their best to list their available animals on Petfinder.