A New “Leash” On Life

Volunteer Dianne Stargel snuggles with the newest residents of the Aberdeen Animal Shelter. (COLLEEN CONGER)

ABERDEEN – Be honest. Your heart starts to twinge and your eyes begin to water when you hear Sarah McLachlan’s ASPCA commercial on TV. You don’t have to be a pet lover to experience the emotional draw of wanting to adopt every single animal featured in the commercial.

Those intense emotions prove that we’re all compassionate people and that kindheartedness doesn’t waiver, even when it comes to our furry friends. That same compassion also runs deep in the heart of every staff member and volunteer at the Aberdeen Animal Shelter.

Opened in 2007 with the generous support of the E.O. Fike family, a group of Aberdeen citizens called the Friends of the Aberdeen Animal Shelter, and a dedicated team of volunteers, the shelter has lived up to the moniker of The Little Shelter That Could.

Serving the residents of the city of Aberdeen, the shelter has two city workers. One full-time Animal Control Officer, Larry Jackson and 1 part-time employee. The rest of the staff is comprised of a faithful band of volunteers. Dr. M. Carol Crawford volunteers as veterinarian.

A portion of the shelter’s operating budget is provided by the city, but the majority of their needs are supplied through various fundraising events and a twice a month yard sale.

On a typical day, work at the shelter begins bright and early at 7 a.m. Animals pens are cleaned and the animals are fed. By 8:30, the dogs are released into the play yard for playing and socializing. Pit bull dogs, however, are housed in their own building because of the City of Aberdeen’s pet ordinance.

“The cats are housed in the same building as the dogs until our cat house is completed,” said volunteer Dianna Stargel. “The cat house will be a sanctuary until the cats get adopted.” One complete, the building that will house the cats will have the distinction of being called “Roy’s Cat House” in honor of Mr. Roy Pounders who was one of the original builders of the first animal shelter. “He wanted a place for the cats to not be caged, but be able to wander around,” said Stargel. “The cat house will have a large fenced in yard and a front porch complete with rocking chairs – in case the kitties have human visitors.”

The rest of the day is jam packed with clerical work and filing along with processing impound and intake paperwork. There is also a steady stream of new animals to process, checkups to be performed, worming, vaccinations, heart worm testing, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) testing.

When people do come in to adopt, they can be rest assured that they are getting a healthy pet,” explained Stargel. “Puppies get all their shots, 3 days of worming, microchipping, and are either spayed/neutered. “We focus a lot on educating the public about getting their pets spayed/neutered to help control overpopulation and even help low income families spay/neuter their pets. No shelter shouldn’t have to revert to euthanasia to solve an overpopulation problem.”

The Aberdeen Animal Shelter has a No-Kill policy. Animals stay in the shelter until they become adopted. The staff wholeheartedly believes in the adoption of healthy, well adjusted animals.

Anyone wishing to adopt a pet are encouraged to walk through the shelter and interact with the animals. “People usually pick one to two animals that they like. We bring the animals into the office or an exam room for one-on-one time,” said Stargel. “We want a good match – for both sides.”

The shelter also encourages people to bring their own family pets to the shelter to see how the animals would act together.

When the decision is made, shelter staff encourage the family to take the animal home for a couple of days for a sort of test run. “Most times it works out,” said Stargel. “The process makes everyone more comfortable and secure in the knowledge that they made the right decision.”

Stargel summed it up by saying, “When you come to a shelter, you change a life. Not only does that pet change your life, it changes that animal’s life for good.”

If you’re interested in finding a great life companion, check out the Aberdeen Animal Shelter’s Facebook Page or their website at http://petfinder.com. In addition to filling your heart with the cutest animal photos, you’ll be able to see the shelter’s latest needs. You can also drop by in person at 201 Roy Pounders Drive in Aberdeen, (662) 369-2188
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