MOUNT VERNON — Plenty of activity can always be found going on these days at the Knox County Animal Shelter, 350 Columbus Road, Mount Vernon. Whether it is volunteers working with the dogs or officers trying to locate homes for the dogs, there never seems to be a dull moment.
A total of 945 dogs was brought into the animal shelter in 2010, according to Knox County Dog Warden James St. Clair. Of this number, 194 were adopted, 242 were returned to their owners and 421 were transferred to other rescues or the Humane Society.
“The compassion here for the animals is unbelievable,” said St. Clair. “Not one of us wants to put an animal down. We work diligently in finding homes for them.” Euthanasia rates are rather low at the animal shelter, according to St. Clair. In 2010, seven dogs were euthanised per health department orders for rabies. Twenty-nine were euthanised for overcrowding and 21 for being of an aggressive nature.
The animal shelter uses the services of numerous volunteers who work with the dogs in getting them socialized and ready for adoption.
“Our volunteers are great,” said St. Clair. “They work with the dogs every day, and they can tell you all about every dog here.”
He went on to tell the story of one dog, “Oscar,” who when he came to the shelter was wanting to bite everybody. “And not just bite; he wanted to eat everybody,” said St. Clair. But the volunteers worked with Oscar until he was tamed and ready to be placed for adoption.
Nathan Gerhart, animal control officer, told of “Rescue Wagon” volunteers who perform behavior tests on the dogs. They are transported to other locations and put through a series of tests and exercises until they can be placed elsewhere.
“They (volunteers) are a big reason our euthanasia rates are so low,” said Gerhart. There are currently about 50 dogs up for adoption, according to Gerhart.
In some cases, some are trained for service dogs. These may be used in a police K-9 unit or trained for the military as bomb sniffing dogs. Many of these could be Labrador retrievers, German shepherds or bloodhounds.
Other organizations at times locate dogs where they can go to a foster home. Foster volunteers also work with dogs on a one-on-one basis until they are ready to be adopted. Some of these are older or may not be very adoptable. “These volunteers want to take them in, though,” said St. Clair. “We check them [organizations] out. They are all 501(c)3 organizations. There are a lot of people who would love to have a dog. And we try to find them.”
The Knox County Animal Shelter does not take in cats, as they are not permitted to do so according to Ohio Revised Code. Any cats in Knox County are taken to the Knox County Humane Society.
On occasion, the shelter may take in nuisance wildlife such as possums, skunks or raccoons. Gerhart, who once took in a ferret, stated it doesn’t happen very happen, but it is possible. If nuisance wildlife is brought to the animal shelter, it is then turned over to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
“A huge misconception about our shelter is that we bring in dogs to kill,” said St. Clair. “People come in and ask about our euthanasia list. We don’t even have a list. We always do what we can to find places for them (dogs) to live out their lives.”