Dogs, cats rule at Jefferson County Animal Shelter, under new management

PORT TOWNSEND — On her doctor’s orders, Tess has a blanket in her private room.

Nearby, Buddy, the cuts on his neck healing, is testing out a raised platform bed.

Rex hangs out in the front office, while Kess awaits her weekly photo shoot.

Welcome to a humane shelter where the residents are being treated humanely.

“Before we go home, we volunteers make sure every dog gets a soft pad for its head, or at least a blanket,” Joyce Fell said.

Fell is the new volunteer coordinator at the Jefferson County Animal Shelter, which has undergone a dramatic transformation since January, when management was transferred to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

Under the guidance of the new director, Deputy Tony Hernandez, the shelter is turning into a welcome place for both the animals and the humans who care about them.

“It was kind of sterile,” Hernandez said. “We want to foster an environment that encourages the public to come in.”

While not denigrating previous management by the Health Department, Hernandez wants people to know the shelter is changing.

One sign of the open-door policy: Volunteers are being actively recruited instead of being turned away.

Another is expanded hours of operation — from fewer than five hours a day to 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Hernandez polled the public after the changeover and learned that longer hours were a priority. Using his accounting background, the University of Washington graduate also conducted a five-year audit of finances, operation and level of service.

“Historically we saw revenues declining, costs going up and the level of service declining,” Hernandez said.

“Basically we wanted to rebuild from the ground up and address deficiencies as we go.”

To stretch the operating budget, Hernandez is seeking to re-establish the connection to the community and recruited Fell as volunteer coordinator.

The position is unpaid, but Fell puts in long days, taking care of the animals and looking for people to share the work.

The choice is varied — volunteers can walk dogs on the miles of wooded trails behind the shelter, take the cats to their new playroom or teach “dog college” — basic skills that make pets more adoptable.

Her goal is to get every animal out of its kennel or cage twice a day for at least 20 minutes.

“My goal is to de-stress the animals,” she said. “That’s what my focus is on all the time, whether it’s physical or mental distress.”

To improve the level of animal care, Hernandez consulted with local veterinarians. Now, any animal that is brought in sick is not euthanized unless a checkup by a veterinarian finds the condition terminal and declares that nothing can be done, Fell said.

In the three months she’s been in charge of volunteers, only three animals have been euthanized — two cats who were very sick when the owner brought them in and a one dog that attacked its owner, she said.

“There’s no time limit for an animal to find a ‘forever’ home,” Fell said.

The odds of that happening have increased.

Formerly involved in pet rescue — all of her three dogs are rescue animals — Fell is listing shelter animals on a Web site, Petfinder.com, which is free.

VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED at the Jefferson County Animal Shelter to walk dogs, play with cats, work with prospective owners or help in whatever way you chose.

Donations of chain-link fencing and dog houses are needed to build more kennels. Also on the wish list: leashes, pet toys, bedding and food, and monetary donations to help pay for medical care.

For more information, call Joyce Fell, volunteer coordinator, at the animal shelter at 360-385-3292, or visit the shelter at 112 Critter Lane, off Jacob Miller Road.

Peninsula Daily News

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