ESCANABA - The process of transferring Delta County's animal shelter from the county to the Delta Area Animal Society has been going very smoothly, according to two officials with the shelter.
On Aug. 15, the Delta Area Animal Society took control of operating the Delta Animal Shelter from the county to prevent its closure.
"I really want the public to know that this shelter was going to close, because the county is out of funds," said Sue Gartland, shelter manager. "So they approached our non-profit to see if we could take it over, otherwise this place would be closed right now...due to budget concessions. The county does not have to provide an animal shelter - it's not mandated by law."
Delta Animal Shelter Manager Sue Gartland poses with two recently adopted dogs at the shelter, Lefty and Lucky. The shelter currently houses eight dogs and between 30 to 35 cats. (Daily Press photo by Jason Raiche)
However, the transition has been "fabulous" so far, according to Gartland.
"It's been a great two weeks," she said.
Assistant Shelter Manager Mary Gail said the reaction to the shelter has also been good.
"Everyone that comes in seems very positive," she said. "They're thrilled to see the changes. We try to keep a really happy environment here, meet everyone at the door, and try to determine what they're looking for and how we can help make a good match. I think that's working well."
Gartland said the shelter has a huge volunteer base of people who help to improve conditions at the shelter for the animals, but they are always looking for more volunteers.
"We're always in need of volunteers to clean, feed and water, play with the dogs, and socialize the kittens," said Gartland. She added they are also looking for volunteers to help with laundry, doing dishes, helping out with fund-raisers and open houses, too.
"We have a lot of people that volunteer who say, 'Oh, I can't volunteer because I get too depressed,'" said Gail. "But once they get into it, they find that it's really quite a positive thing and we give these animals a really high quality of life while they're with us."
Gartland said the shelter was able to raise funds to fence in its entire property.
"We fenced in the whole property so now we have volunteers that just play with the dogs everyday," she said. "All the dogs are getting about an hour's worth of exercise a day."
She said before this, the county had not let the dogs outside and volunteers could not walk dogs due to liability reasons.
"That's made a huge difference because the dogs are burning off all their extra energy," said Gartland.
One other change at the shelter is the requirement for all animals to be spayed or neutered as soon as they are adopted.
"We go through the adoption process here, and then we transport the animals to the vet clinic from here," said Gartland. "Then the new adopters pick their dog or cat up from the vet clinic after surgery."
This process ensures animals are spayed and neutered beforehand to help prevent overpopulation of Delta County animals - which is the shelter's number one goal.
"Before this, the animals would go home with a certificate to go get the spay or neuter completed and the certificate gave a certain amount of money towards that surgery," said Gartland. "Now it's paid for in full, the transport is done, and we know for sure the animals are fixed."
Gartland expressed her appreciation for all the support from people in the area.
"The support of the public has been fabulous," she said. "We've had people stop in here just to say, 'Thank you for keeping the shelter open.' The donations really have been coming in just from people that are really happy we are able to keep the shelter open."
Gartland said the county's adoption rate was at a very low 64 percent, with roughly one in three animals euthanized.
"We think that's deplorable," she said. "And that is one of our main goals is to change that. The other shelters in the U.P. have very high adoption rates - anywhere from 94 to 99 percent. In the United States, 4 million animals...are euthanized each year at shelters."
She said she just wants everyone to give shelter animals a chance because the shelter offers some great cats and dogs.
"We need people to come and give us support or come down here and take a tour and then go to their family and friends and advocate for those animals," she said.
The shelter has two major fund-raisers planned, including one this Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Ernie's Irish Pub in Escanaba.
"We'd like to put a call-out to all dog and cat lovers to come down and support us," Gartland said. "It's a $10 donation fee admission. The first 125 people are guaranteed a prize."
The grand prize is a two-night stay at Kal's Creek Lodge for six people, meals included. Gartland said people do not need to be present to win. They can come in, pay the $10 fee and they are automatically entered into the drawing.
Snacks will be provided by D&M Subs.
Another fund-raising event will be the Joe Heller Memorial 5K Run/Walk/Dog Walk in Ludington Park on Sept. 24. Registration forms are available online at www.deltaanimal.org or can be picked up at the shelter. Registration will take place from 8 to 8:45 a.m. Sept. 24, with the race beginning at 9 a.m.
There will be trophies for the best overall male and female runners and medals for first and second place in each division. Free refreshments are available following the race.
The Delta Animal Shelter is open Monday through Wednesday and Friday from 12 to 4 p.m., Thursday from 12 to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
They are located at 6685 N. 75 Drive in Escanaba and can be reached by calling 789-0230.