By BROOKE STEVENSON
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE — The city’s animal shelter staff are doing all they can to keep its euthanasia rates low.
The shelter’s current rate is anywhere between 1 percent and 2 percent, according to Animal Control Officer Charles Gillenwater.
The reason the rate can be kept low, he said, is because of the shelter’s hardworking volunteer staff. Gillenwater is the only certified and paid employee.
Volunteers range from people associated with the Precious Animal Welfare Society, or P.A.W.S., to those who volunteer a few hours whenever they can.
“Some people have even come here for community service, and when their hours are completed they ask me if they can still come back and help,” Gillenwater said. “I always say yes.”
Also helping to reduce the need for euthanasia is the posting of adoptable animals on the Web site petfinder.com.
“We’ve been seeing really good results for adoption on (the site),” said volunteer Jill Skoviak. “People are really going on the site and picking out specific animals and coming in to see them.
“We’re just wanting to raise more awareness and let people know what we have.”
Gillenwater has worked at the pound for 22 years, and he has seen a dramatic drop in euthanizing since 2005, when the shelter moved to its new building and more people started volunteering.
“My euthanizing went from probably about 98 percent from behind the police station where I was, down to 1 or 2 percent now,” he said.
In order to avoid euthanization, volunteers and Gillenwater work with organizations to place animals that have not been adopted into foster homes.
“We only euthanize if we absolutely 110 percent have to and nobody can take the animals,” he said.
Injured or sick animals make up the small percentage of those euthanized, as well as feral cats that cannot be handled by anyone.
At a recent City Council meeting, Councilwoman Sheri Sutherby Fricke asked what residents should do if they are moving and cannot take their pet with them.
“We’re seeing a lot of people moving out of their homes due to either foreclosure or people transferring somewhere, and they don’t know what to do with their pets,” she said.
Gillenwater said anyone who finds themselves in that type of situation can come to the shelter to surrender their animal.
“Just tell us if they’ve been taken to the vet, if they have received shots, if they are spayed or neutered and their history,” he said. “We’ll get their pictures put on (Wyandotte) cable and the Web site and hopefully find them a new home.”
He said the economy has hit everyone hard, including the shelter, and that it has seen some very slow adoption periods. In response to one of those, the shelter held a Valentine’s Day adoption event last weekend.
Final adoption count for the weekend was 21 animals, making it so successful that organizers are considering hosting a similar event in July.
“There was an overwhelming response to the Valentine’s Day event,” Gillenwater said. “It’s all about getting the word out.”
He said a man from Canada heard about the event and came to the shelter to adopt a dog — and did.
Adoption and drop-off hours are 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday.
The shelter is at 1170 Grove and can be reached by telephone at (734) 324-4445. Animals for adoption can be viewed at http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/wyandotteanimalcontrol.html.