The city's Animal Care and Control received national recognition from the Humane Society of the United States this week as one of the nation's most proactive shelters.
At a Thursday news conference, the organization's State Director, Anne Sterling, explained that Animal Care and Control should be an “inspiration to other animal control departments looking for ways to expand their services, serve the community, and save more lives,” according to a news release.
The recognition comes with no cash reward or certificate, but department spokeswoman Peggy Bender said it's the pat on the back that matters to the staff.
“It gives us a great sense of pride to know that we are able to do things outside the box and don't let the fact that we are government and limited by tax dollars stop us from doing the things that we think need to be done for animals,” said Bender.
It all starts with the shelter's volunteer programs and its fundraising efforts, which allow its other work to happen.
Then, it's combining the care aspect and the control side that sets the shelter apart.
Bender said many cities offer both a humane shelter that does the “feel-good” efforts and an animal law-enforcement center that concentrates on ticket-writing.
“We looked at it and said it should be both,” said Bender.
“It shouldn't be one or the other. Yes, we write tickets when we have to and we enforce laws because that's what's needed to be done by our organization, but there's no reason the animals here in our building shouldn't have toys and be walked and have the best possible care we can give them.”
The main reason for the national humane society to come to town, though, is what Animal Care and Control is doing to prevent animals from coming to the shelter in the first place.
That's done through education. Outreach initiatives such as free pet parenting classes have served to keep animals safe and healthy through educated owners, and have kept animals out of the shelter.
“Education just became one of the top programs here at the shelter to prevent some of the issues that other shelters just keep facing over and over again,” said Bender.
Bender said it is not uncommon for Director Belinda Lewis and other officials to travel statewide to learn proactive approaches to animal care and control, then implement what they learned at the local shelter.
It has worked, it seems.
“It was appreciated greatly that somebody from outside comes in and says … you need to be applauded for what you're doing,” said Bender.