DOBSON — Citing high euthanasia rates and low adoption numbers, a gathering has been planned at the Surry County Animal Shelter Thursday to plead for changes.
Billed as a “peaceful gathering with hopes of several adoptions, raising support and awareness,” the event is set to get under way at 4 p.m. at the Dobson shelter, according to organizer Wendy Willard.
Willard said that since news of the gathering — she declined to call it a protest — leaked out last week, interest has been piqued among county residents.
“There’s not an official group involved, but it’s become pretty substantial in terms of numbers,” she said. “There are many people who operate animal rescues going to be there and lots of members of the county community who want to support animals.”
Willard said the reason the event isn’t a “protest” is the goal isn’t to cause trouble for the shelter.
“The reason I’m doing this is to raise awareness about the treatment of animals in the county,” she said. “At this shelter, according to numbers from the N.C. Department of Agriculture, we had a 2011 euthanasia rate of 90.69 percent compared to an adoption rate of 4.53 percent.”
The result is what Willard has called “little more than a kill shelter.”
Out of 4,012 animals taken into the shelter last year, 186 were adopted, Willard added. Last year’s operating budget for the animal shelter was about $459,690.
“Something needs to be done about this,” she said.
Willard said a visit to the county shelter would open many residents’ eyes.
“It’s easy to look at the statistics from the agriculture department, but when you walk into the shelter and look into an animal’s face and see its life, it’s different,” she said. “These animals have souls just like you and I do.”
But she isn’t organizing the gathering to cause trouble, rather as an offer of help for the animals, Willard insisted.
“What I’d like to see the county do is list these animals on Petfinder.com or Facebook!” She said. “It’s free and wouldn’t cost the county anything!”
Willard said she has approached county officials with the proposal.
She hopes shelter officials will allow her to enter the shelter weekly as a volunteer to photograph the animals and put them on the websites.
“My goal is to get euthanasia rates down, to raise public awareness of why people should spay and neuter and to let the public know that we all care,” she said. “I realize this will add work to the shelter employees as more calls will be coming in, but the animals deserve a chance to be seen, not only by the occasional person who happens to come in.”
Willard said Petfinder and Facebook “save thousands of animals.”
“I am simply asking for a chance,” she said. “I have no hidden agenda as many others do.”
She added that she has nothing but respect for shelter employees, and doesn’t want to cause trouble.
“I know the realities of how hard the shelter employee’s job is,” she said. “They’re not just a shelter, but also Animal Control, and it requires much work.
“But if I could take this (responsibility) off them and bring in income for the county at the same time, we could be adopting these animals out to loving families and making money at the same time.”
She said a visit to the shelter could open the eyes of county residents to the plight of the animals.
“If you’ve never been to an animal shelter, please come out and give these animals a voice,” she said. “They have no voice.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.