“Tuesday is D-Day because on Wednesday all the pets not adopted are euthanized,” said shelter volunteer Susie Burns. “One saved is one saved. But, the thought of putting any of them down is hard. I have left here crying many days.”
Each week more than a dozen volunteers work to find a home for the animals. Volunteers do everything from transporting animals to a veterinary clinic to taking the pets’ photos and uploading them to the animal rescue website www.petfinder.com.
Volunteer Elizabeth Ard said the shelter is getting e-mails from interested pet owners all over the world.
“We get e-mails from Germany asking about our dogs and cats,” said Ard.
With a lack of funding, and an overwhelming need for volunteers, each week is a race against the clock to get the information about these animals to the public.
The Rome News-Tribune spotlights three animals every Monday in Roman Record.
Animal Control Director Jason Broome says the volunteers have cultivated valuable relationships with rescue groups throughout the country.
“These volunteers are awesome. They are amazing people and we have been behind them 100 percent. Their efforts have blossomed into something big, and a lot more dogs and cats are going out the front door,” Broome said.
The volunteers have helped the shelter increase adoptions by 250 percent since last year and have decreased the rate of euthanasia by 45 percent. That’s an amazing feat considering that a little more than three years ago the shelter was without volunteers or patrons, and hundreds of pets were going without homes. This led Ard to begin a campaign to solicit volunteers.
“I just came by one day to take some photos and load them on Petfinder, and there was nobody here,” said Ard.
That is when she put out the word, emailing every pet lover and rescue group she knew. Ard said the initial e-mail prompted just four volunteers, but those volunteers remained faithful and soon the numbers of willing participants grew.
Ard says petfinder.com is a success because it not only gets pets in the arms of loving owners, it also gets Floyd County residents inside the doors of the shelter.
“For a long time there were no locals coming in,” Ard said. “If a Rome citizen came out it was rare. They thought it might be scary and sad. But once you get people in the door they see it isn’t a scary place. They see cute animals.”
In January the volunteers opened an office inside the shelter, and they are still busy putting forth anywhere from a few hours each week to 25 hours or more. Ard says there is still much to be done. The shelter needs volunteers to transport animals to and from vet appointments, as well as those willing to photograph pets for adoption sites. Ard insists there are also volunteer opportunities for those who don’t want to be physically present at the shelter.
“We also need people to answer the Petfinder e-mails, and that can be done at home in your pajamas,” Ard said.
Beyond saving animals, the volunteers are also working to educate citizens on how to take care of animals.
“We need low income options for low income pet owners,” said volunteer Linda Gentry.
Gentry points out that most of the animals the shelter receives have been surrendered by pet owners who could no longer afford to take care of them, a sad result of pet owners not considering long-term costs.
“The upside is they are healthy and they have usually been housebroken and socialized,” Gentry said.
The shelter also needs money, Gentry says, and volunteers are hoping to find someone with marketing or grant writing experience to help promote and garner donations.
To volunteer at the shelter or for information on adoption, e-mail email@example.com.