At capacity: humane society has full load of dogs, cats

MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times Tim Cole talks on the phone while a cat lounges on the counter Tuesday at the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley animal shelter on Mount Tom Road.

Up on the hill above County House Lane, the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley animal shelter is packed like a Marietta hotel during the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.

Dozens of cats lounge, play and looked bored as only cats can in cages in the entry hallway. An enclosure the size of a washer-dryer combo holds a dozen kittens next to shelter director Tim Cole’s desk in his office. A big, arrogant looking black cat is sprawled across the reception counter.

That’s just what can be seen from the front door.

Cole, who has been in charge of the operation since October, said late summer is the season for crowding as pups and kittens whelped in the spring start growing up, some with nowhere to go. On Tuesday morning the shelter held 80 dogs and 245 cats, with more wait-listed to come in as space becomes available.

Peering at a spreadsheet, Cole said that since January, 571 dogs and 800 cats have come through the facility. They arrive when pet owners decide to surrender their companion animals because of personal circumstances, when strays are picked up and when authorities confiscate neglected and abused animals.

Of the dogs, 271 were adopted, 104 were returned to their owners, 70 were released to other animal rescue organizations and 30 had “other live outcomes,” he said. That includes releasing feral cats back into the wild after they are fixed.

The rest are either still lodged at the shelter, placed in foster homes or were euthanized, he said.

“We don’t euthanize animals except those who have severe medical problems or are excessively aggressive with other animals and people,” he said.

The shelter is a warren of concrete block rooms, some stacked shoulder-high with cat cages, others with dog enclosures. An outdoor area in back provides fresh air for the dogs, who are taken out for a while twice a day. The 10-member staff takes those opportunities to clean out the indoor enclosures.

Caitlyn Way has been working at the shelter for two months and although some of the job involves cleaning up, she said likes being around the animals.

“Someone has to do this job, and I can do it as well as anyone,” she said. The job has also changed her home life – she’s adopted a 13-year-old collie that kept breaking out of the enclosures, and she also brought home a puppy for her daughter.

Cole, who brings a 13-year background as a military dog handler to the job, said adoptions are steady throughout the year but late summer just brings in many dogs and cats. Local veterinarians help by providing the animals medical care and performing spay and neuter operations on all those that need it.

“The local vets really work well with us,” he said.

Between adoptions, fostering, the assistance of other humane organizations and the staff’s attention to individual animals, Cole said, the euthanasia rate for the shelter is 1 percent for dogs and 4 percent for cats. The national average for dogs is 10 percent and for cats, 8 percent, he said.

“That’s a huge testament to the employees here,” he said.

The shelter has recruited 54 foster families for dogs and cats, he said, mostly used to help with animals that require especially intensive care because of illness or other conditions.

Rennelle Casto, assistant manager at the shelter, said donations of money or supplies are always welcome. She noted that although the shelter is crowded, it always accepts dogs under a contract with the county. Anyone who finds a cat that should go to the shelter is asked to care for the animal until space becomes available, she said.

“We always accept monetary donations to pay the bills, and food, cat litter and cleaning supplies,” Cole said. “Kitten food can be hard to get hold of. We use Purina Kitten Chow, Purina Dog Chow and Purina Puppy Chow, and we’re always in need of bleach and laundry detergent.”

The Humane Society of the Ohio Valley has a wish list posted on its website, hsov.org, he said.

Humane Society of the Ohio Valley

•Shelter location: 90 Mount Tom Road.

•Phone: 740-373-5959.

•Dogs taken in since January: 571.

•Cats: 800.

•Current housed dogs: 80.

•Cats: 265.

•Cost to adopt a dog: $145 (includes vaccinations, worm and flea treatments, county dog tags, microchip and spay or neuter).

•A cat: $40 (includes vaccinations, worm and flea treatments, combo test, spay or neuter).