The North Little Rock Animal Shelter near Burns Park recently underwent an expansion. (Photo by Bill Lawson)
Through the recent addition of 19 new cages at the North Little Rock Animal Shelter the facility is now able to house 90 dogs at one time along with about 36 cats.
Of all those dogs, 24 are available for adoption at any given time.
The city agency in is the business of trying to control the city’s animal population, which can be a monumental job, but the successful adoption of animals is what makes the employees there smile.
The latest figures indicate 52 percent of the animals who come through its doors are adopted, said Julie Coulter, lead animal control officer for the agency.
Billy Grace has been director there for almost 17 years and he’s certainly seen some changes. The staff of nine, including seven animal control officers, has a big city to cover.
One of the biggest changes is the creation of a mobile adoption vehicle that the agency and the North Little Rock Friends of the Animals sets up at Lakewood Village on Fridays between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Coulter said taking the animals out to the public has worked better than expecting the public to come to their remote Burns Park shelter, even though its about halfway between the Burns Park I-40 exit and the Burns Park golf pro shop.
Shelter employees work hard to try to see that animals are adopted or funneled through another agency to help the process along.
The shelter is open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays to encourage adoptions.
Most adopted animals go home with a voucher for up to $200 in feed. It’s through a special grant to encourage adoptions and for that $200 in feed, the cost to the adopting family is about $40, Coulter said.
When an animal is picked up by an animal control officer for roaming the city or creating problems, staff members look for tags, implanted devices or some other form of identification to get the animal back to its owners.
City ordinances require dogs and cats to have identification tags and up-to-date shots.
Fines in city court average about $500, she said. But she said the judge offers special incentives for violators to reduce their fines by taking care of the initial problem.
Unclaimed animals are kept in a quarantine holding area for six days, Coulter said. At 10 days, they can be adopted if they have been spayed or neutered.
Walking through the new cages, built by adding a roof over a previously unprotected area, the cages are clean and larger than those seen in many of the so-called “doggie spas” that specialize in holding animals while an owner is on vacation or otherwise unavailable to take care of a pet. The animals are out of the elements and protected from assaults by larger or more aggressive animals.
Last week the shelter had almost any type dog and those of any size.
Animal control officers uniformly said closing in the old area was its best use. Animal control officers can drive in a recent capture, unload it out of the weather elements and with gates locked, so they don’t have to chase down a dog or cat for the second time.
Coulter said the southern side of the shelter was enclosed three years ago and by closing in the north side this year, it enables employees to make the facility cooler for the animals, who may have been exposed to the elements before their capture.
Adoptions are always down in the summer, Coulter said, but the shelter averages about 120 adoptions a month on a yearly basis.
That’s a lot of animals off the streets who found a new home.
Fees to adopt are $60 for dogs and $40 for cats, she said.
And that only includes the cost of the veterinarian to spay or neuter the animal.
City ordinance requires every animal adopted to have been sterilized, Coulter said.
Once they’ve gone through the holding and quarantine period to see if an owner shows up, she said dogs are kept usually for five days and cats for three days.
Rarely do owners reclaim animals, she said; most pick-ups are strays.
The sad fact is that almost one-half of the animals picked up and brought to the shelter are euthanized, she said.
Those figures can be misleading though, she said, because the shelter accepts animals that are surrendered – many who are aged and well along in the process of dying.
But the shelter works with animal advocates to save as many as possible, she said. Usually that involves only healthy animals.
Many are shipped out to Michigan and other places where people are looking for healthy animals to adopt.
Coulter said they ship more dogs north because there appears to be a shortage of animals the father north you go in the United States and an abundance down south.
With around 90 animal slots at the shelter, cats amount to only about 36 cages, she said.
“People don’t call about cats,” Coulter said.
One of the Michigan groups we work with is “Wishing Wells for Paws,” she said.
Another she noted is “Paws for Prisons.”
It’s a unique program where veteran prisoners train animals to be more sociable through a two-month program where the dogs are housebroken and taught obedience.
Most of those dogs are also shipped up north and primarily to the northeast part of the country, she said.
Adoptions in general are down in June, July and August, she said, but way up on rainy days.
The North Little Rock Shelter has no website.
Coulter said the shelter has too many animals coming through, and officials have no money for photos or keeping up a website.
To put things in perspective, “If every person in the city adopted a dog, we’d still have too many animals running around. That’s why spaying and neutering is so important.