The Fairfax County Animal Shelter Department has seen an almost 60% increase in pet adoptions over the past six months and is stepping up to meet the needs with additional programs and a new shelter expected to open next year.
Last year, the agency accepted more than 3,000 animals and affected the lives of about 1,000 others through its programs and services, Director Reasa Currier told the Oversight Council’s Public Safety Committee Oct. 4. . At any one time, a third of the department’s animals are in foster homes, she added.
“While we prioritize making the shelter as wonderful and compassionate as possible, there’s nothing quite like being in a home,” Currier said.
In June, the department moved from adoptions by appointment to walk-in visits, which resulted in a more than 90% increase in foot traffic, she said.
“The Fairfax County Animal Shelter accepts all animals, regardless of species, size or temperament,” Currier said. “We can all be very proud that at our animal shelter no treatable, adoptable or healthy animal is euthanized and we have a consistent live release rate of over 90% meaning the vast majority of animals entrusted to us are placed in loving and adoptive homes.
The department revamped its volunteer program and volunteer hours increased by more than 50%, totaling over 7,000 hours.
The agency’s revamped ‘human education’ program has offerings for all age groups, including ‘Reading Tails’, which lets children – dressed in pajamas and wielding flashlights – read stories at bedtime to house animals, Currier said. Hours after the reading program launched, 600 children signed up, crashing the department’s website, she said.
Among the department’s offerings are low-cost vaccination clinics and events offering free wellness exams, vaccinations, microchips, neutering and neutering, behavioral support, grooming, and food and supplies. free pet supplies.
More than 800 families have benefited from the agency’s programs so far this year. About 65% of those residents live in the Highway 1 corridor, and many attended a department event in that area, Currier said.
“There is a great need and many people cannot afford to pay for some of the services related to supporting their pets,” said Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D-Lee), who chairs the Public Safety Committee. advice.
The Department of Animal Shelters is preparing for the opening of the new Lorton Animal Shelter next spring, which will be the agency’s second facility in the county. Department heads submitted a budget carry request for 27 full-time employees to manage the 23,000-square-foot facility, which will include 88 kennels and 42 “cat condos.”
Agency officials expect to line up more animals at the new shelter, based on the number of stray and abandoned animals taken in by the Alexandria Animal Welfare League, which likely come from the southern part of the Fairfax County, Currier said.
Currier took over on January 31 from former director Karen Diviney, who retired. Currier previously served as vice president of external affairs for the Humane Rescue Alliance and worked for the Humane Society of the United States, other animal welfare organizations and the US Department of Transportation.
Owning a pet contributes significantly to people’s mental and physical health, social connections and civic engagement, Currier said, citing studies by sociologists.
“Pets are social lubricants for communities,” she said. “They bring us together.”
Challenges to pet ownership remain, such as rising costs and lack of access to pet-friendly housing and necessary services, primarily veterinary care, Currier said. Deposits and fees charged for pets also annoy residents, she said, adding that she hopes authorities will make all affordable housing units in the county pet-friendly.
“We provide housing for our residents, but excluding pets, we don’t provide homes,” Currier said.
Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason) sympathized with that sentiment, but added that the county’s top priority for affordable housing is housing people, and pet policies shouldn’t get in the way of that. .
“It only takes one irresponsible pet owner to strike fear into an entire community,” Gross said. “So I think we have to be very, very careful about that.”
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