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Animal Services seeks foster homes, volunteers

 

JENNA-LEY HARRISON

Staff Writer

 

Lincoln County Animal Services is looking to increase the county’s number of foster homes.

With only a handful of foster homes at the moment, Lincoln County is low on the totem pole when compared to neighboring counties’ average number of animal foster care facilities, LCAS employee Ryan Curry said.

Curry serves as the facility’s assistant supervisor, rescue coordinator and animal caretaker.

Typically, there are between 10 and 20 foster homes for each county’s animal shelter, but Lincoln County has between three and five registered locations, he said.

Without a place to be fostered, some cats and dogs never get the chance to change an animal lover’s life or “complete” a family because shelter officials are forced to euthanize them when space becomes tight.

Curry blames much of the county’s overpopulation on the lack of spayed and neutered pets.

“Until we can convince people to get them (fixed), they’re (animals) going to keep coming,” he said.

LCAS officials noted how foster care can help reduce the shelter’s overcrowding, a problem which typically plagues the facility the most during the warmer months.

“If we can free up a kennel by someone opening up their home to a foster pet, it buys us more time to find that forever home for them,” Curry said. “Space is always limited.”

Every rescue is held 72 hours at the shelter before becoming LCAS property.

The three-day waiting period is vital for animals who may be missing from a home, giving the owner time to look for it at the shelter.

At the end of 72 hours, LCAS can either adopt out, rescue, foster or euthanize the animal, Curry said.

Sometimes, animals are in such bad health that euthanization is necessary before the end of the holding period.

Curry noted that LCAS is never in such a hurry to use euthanization to reduce the shelter’s overpopulation that officials aren’t first willing to exhaust every possible option for keeping an animal alive. He said the agency wants to keep itself from the “pound mentality.”

“No one is sitting around with a stop watch,” Curry said. “We make sure we get out as many dogs as humanly possible.”

Unfortunately, more cats than dogs are euthanized throughout the year since the shelter witnesses a constant influx of felines.

After joining the shelter four years ago, Curry has seen a plethora of animals come and go.

“You couldn’t have told me there were this many animals on planet Earth when I started working here,” he said, “let alone in Lincoln County.”

Curry wasn’t looking for a job with the agency when he said he visited the area shelter the same day they fired an employee. He soon moved up the ranks to a supervisor position.

The process of becoming a Lincoln County foster volunteer is quite simple.

Animal Services requires anyone interested in fostering a cat or dog to fill out paperwork and undergo a background check and home check to make sure one’s living space is suitable for housing an animal.

Officials said they particularly look to see if a residence maintains an outside play area contained by a fence or other type of safe barrier and whether or not a high number of pets are already living at the home.

“We make sure everything looks kosher,” Curry said.

While LCAS has a 90-day foster period, officials said they are flexible to extend that period, if necessary.

While a common excuse against fostering is that it’s difficult to eventually give the animal up, Curry said people need to consider the “bigger picture.”

“By opening your home for a short period of time, you’re allowing that animal a chance,” he said. “There are so many (animals) that don’t get a chance. Foster is that key.”

LCAS officials also sometimes witness a “failed foster,” which ironically, is more of a positive term than negative.

Failed fosters, Curry said, are foster animals that end up being adopted by their foster owners. He has even been one himself.

When an animal is fostered, a space opens up for another cat or dog to stay at the shelter, ultimately saving two lives, rather than one, in the long run.

Even with 100 more dogs entering the shelter this spring compared to shelter numbers this time last year, the county’s euthanization rate is down by 10 percent, officials said.

In April 2012, more than 110 animals were adopted out or rescued, while the shelter witnessed nearly 190 last month.

LCAS currently has six shelter workers, four officers and a veterinary tech, Curry said, revealing the need for more volunteers.

For more information on becoming a foster or other type of LCAS volunteer, call (704) 736-4125.

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