For the first time in a long time, Tooele County’s animal shelters aren’t all filled to capacity.
“We are doing great and we are actually not at capacity,” said Julie Higgins, Tooele City Animal Shelter supervisor. “We’ve got lots of dogs that have been getting rescued and adopted. However, it’s one of those things where we might not be at capacity now, but tomorrow we could be. We still need people to come to our shelter and adopt the animals.”
Higgins said it’s not that the shelter hasn’t seen dogs and cats brought in, but because the shelter has been working with several non-profit animal rescue groups in Utah and surrounding states, there have been less that the shelter itself has had to adopt out.
“We see a lot of different breed rescue groups, with everything from spaniels to labradors to huskies,” Higgins said. “We always give the dogs a chance to be adopted first, but if the animal has been here for a couple of weeks or months, we call the rescues to let them know. The rescues take them and work with them to get medical care and grooming so they can find a nice home. It’s kind of like an adoption agency for pets. The rescue groups are not just going to give the pets to anyone.”
Higgins said it’s normal for the shelter to adopt out more dogs than cats, and to always have more cats at the shelter than dogs. She said she doesn’t know why more people adopt dogs, but that’s the norm.
“We don’t have a high percentage of cats that get adopted,” she said. “One of our biggest ways of removing the cats are the rescue groups. We just had 30 cats removed from the shelter within the last couple of weeks.”
During this time of year, Higgins doesn’t see many feral cats coming into the shelter because it’s not breeding season.
“During the summer is when we get the cats and the kittens,” she said. “During this time of year it slows down because of their reproductive cycle. We don’t get as many puppies or kittens.”
Higgins said the rescue groups typically remove animals from the shelters to train them, vaccinate them, get them fixed and keep them until someone adopts them.
Currently, the city animal shelter has 17 dogs and 20 cats, but Higgins said that number changes daily depending on how many animals are brought in. Just yesterday eight animals were brought in.
Higgins said the shelter can hold up to 45 dogs and 50 cats, but that’s a number she doesn’t like to see.
“We don’t like to be that full,” she said. “That can be when diseases start to come in.”
Higgins said during the holiday months more people tend to adopt animals than in the spring and summer. She said this is mainly because people travel a lot during the warmer months of the year. So far this month, 20 animals have been adopted. She said the shelter now has its own Facebook page, listed under Tooele City Animal Shelter, where people can browse the available adoptable animals. The shelter is open for adoptions Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Joe Roundy, a veterinarian with the Tooele Veterinary Clinic who runs the county animal shelter out of his office, said although the number of animals he currently has at the shelter — two dogs and two cats — is low, he continues to see a decrease in adoptions.
“It’s about the same as it’s always been, meaning we’re seeing a little bit of an increase of animals coming through and a little bit of a decrease when it comes to adoption,” he said. “I don’t know what to attribute that to. It’s the time of year when we don’t get kittens and adult cats are hard to find a home for.”
Roundy said the increase has gone from about three animals being dropped off per week last year to about four animals being dropped off per week this year. The county shelter is able to hold up to 22 dogs and 20 cats.
At the Grantsville City Animal Shelter, Grantsville animal control officer Randi Johnson said the shelter isn’t to capacity, but it is just about there. The only saving grave to keeping the shelter from filling all 24 cat cages and all 16 dog runs is that a rescue group took a handful of dogs from the shelter earlier this month.
“I got a little reprieve when the rescue group took some dogs, but other that that, we’re almost at capacity,” Johnson said. “Usually around the holidays the shelter fills up, but I have no idea why.”
Even though the shelters aren’t all at capacity, they could all use donations. Items like pet food, blankets, towels, leashes, collars, dog and cat toys and money are all needed.
Jennifer Campbell, a Grantsville resident and local volunteer who monitors some of the local feral cat colonies, said the feral cat population seems to constantly be growing, but that could be changing in the near future. Campbell said this year, she used a method referred to as TNR, or trap, neuter and return, on 400 feral cats. Last year, she was only able to trap about 300 cats.
“We’re doing better and I think more people are becoming more aware of the TNR program,” she said. “The shelters refer people to me so that I can help them with their ferals. The population growth is slowly getting better, but we’ll know next kitten season, in April or May.”
Marci Wicks, director of Tooele Animal Outreach, a local nonprofit animal rescue group, said people need to know it’s better to go to a shelter to adopt an animal.
“The shelter will be more honest with a family than someone who is in it for selling the puppies or their dog,” she said.
And even though the winter months are a popular time to adopt a new pet, Wicks said, it’s not a good idea to buy someone a pet for Christmas.
“I’m completely against an animal for a gift,” she said. “Don’t get it for a parent or a boyfriend or girlfriend. If it’s a family decision and mom and dad want to be responsible for it, then OK. If it’s a surprise for somebody, they might not be in the position financially to take care of an animal. It’s not a good idea to force a pet onto them.”
Those who do get pets this winter need to follow some simple rules to make sure their pets are healthy and happy, Wicks said.
“During winter, animals by law need to have food, water and adequate shelter,” she said. “If you have an animal outdoors, then you have to have some type of system where their water can keep from freezing.”
Wicks also said animals left outside for long periods of time can become a nuisance because they’re bored or not attended to.
“It’s not a healthy life for an animal and it’s not usually an intentional abuse situation, but sometimes people are just ignorant of what animals need,” she said.
Wicks added it’s important to never adopt an animal based off its looks, but to adopt based on the owners’ lifestyle.
“It’s important to research the animal before getting it to make sure you can keep it healthy and happy,” she said. “Discuss as a family what everyone needs to know when having a pet.”