A recent assessment of the Sumter County Animal Shelter by a national animal welfare organization offers a plan to improve the shelter’s operations, reduce its population and preserve its no-slaughter status.
A report analyzing the flaws and offering recommendations from the Best Friends Animal Society was presented to the stewards on Tuesday evening.
At a workshop meeting next month, commissioners are expected to review the year-old Murder Free Shelter status. At this week’s meeting, they rejected a $550,000 design contract to build a $4.2 million foster and adoption center.
Members of the Best Friends City and Shelter Support Team visited the Sumter County Shelter from December 7-9.
The report praised the animal shelter staff for their commitment and ability to work together.
But he also found some of the shelter’s practices outdated and recommended ways to streamline operations through marketing, community engagement and the use of foster and volunteer programs.
“We believe Sumter County Animal Services has the potential to become a vital resource to the community in a relatively short time,” the report concludes. “To do this, the recommendations of this assessment must be strategically integrated into the day-to-day operations of the agency.”
Shelter overcrowding can be reduced through a safety net program in which staff work more closely with animal owners. They can identify why an animal is being abandoned and offer resources such as pet food, supplies, or help with behavioral issues. They can also provide information about rescue groups in the area that offer alternatives to shelter.
According to the report, animal services staff can retrain the community to help dogs or cats find their way home instead of returning them immediately to the shelter. Using social media, asking people if they know the animal, or posting “lost dog” signs are ways to help bring an animal home.
The Best Friends report also found the shelter’s adoption process cumbersome.
“The adoption process used by Sumter County Animal Services is highly impersonal and adoption policies are based on outdated practices,” the report states.
Instead of having to fill out forms first, a conversational approach with a quick survey would be more effective. About 10 to 15 adoption applications are received each day, but the staff does not follow up on all of them.
“We witnessed several occasions where staff barely interacted with adoptees,” the report said.
Best Friends also suggested that admission and adoption should not happen at the same time and that weekend and evening adoption hours should be available.
Marketing could also be a key to reducing overcrowding. The report suggests using an animal shelter Facebook page and “Pet of the Week” spots on local media to highlight pets for adoption. Video footage of animals staying longer and profile updates to make them look new could aid adoption.
Best Friends also recommended volunteer and hospitality programs to help staff and reduce population.
“A well-run volunteer program will provide the shelter with immense help in supporting staff and animals, and a well-run foster program will increase capacity, improve overall animal health and serve specific populations,” the report states. declared.
The shelter should work with other rescue organizations to develop a countywide coalition for animal welfare, the report suggests.
Best Friends also offered specific recommendations for operations and staff development.
They included replacing Virkon S sanitizer, used for farm animals, with Rescue, a hydrogen peroxide-based product; using towels or cardboard to provide places for cats to hide to reduce stress; and enhance animal enrichment through playgroups, walks or runs.
The evaluation also suggested staff training in areas such as safety net programs, diversion of admissions, customer service and behavior modification. An animal care supervisor is needed as well as a volunteer and foster program supervisor.
Best Friends Animal Society is working to end the killing of dogs and cats in animal shelters nationwide by 2025. Founded in 1984, the organization is a pioneer in the no-killing movement and has reduced the number of Animals killed in shelters range from an estimated 17 million a year to around 350,000.