In Dec. 9 IssueBy Kim GrahamTimes Journal Reporter
Homeless animals at Green River Animal Shelter (GRAS) have loving advocates working to help them find new families and address animal overpopulation problems.
"I've always had a passion for animals," said Green River Animal Shelter Director Sandy Ford. "I love animals."
Ford has worked at the shelter since April 2009 and was named director last month.
"It's just like having my own animals just not taking them home," said Ford.
GRAS is a nonprofit animal welfare organization serving Adair, Metcalfe and Russell counties.
At first glance, the shelter seems like any other but after a visit inside the love and care for animals is clear.
Ford truly sees these animals as a mother sees her children calling them all by name and sharing the personality traits of each dog and cat with visitors and potential adoptive families.
She said some animals come in frightened and aggressive but they leave the shelter docile as teddy bears.
"When they first come in they'd eat you up," said Ford. "When they leave, they'd lick you to death."
At the shelter, scared or aggressive dogs get special attention and help with overcoming their fear of humans.
Ford said workers and volunteers sit quietly with the dogs and offer treats allowing the dog to come to them building a trusting relationship.
"Step by step we love on them until they're use to it," said Ford.
Caring for animals and providing clean, safe housing is top notch at GRAS.
Walking through the rooms of cat cages and dog runs, there is virtually no odor because of their hard work and dedication to cleaning.
With a staff of one full-time employee, one part-time employee, and help from volunteers, Ford manages to maintain a high standard of living for displaced animals and a family work environment.
These days, many people are unable to keep their pets due to financial reasons and surrender them to the shelter or worse abandon them to be picked up by dog wardens.
"People are giving up their pets because of the economy," said Ford. "I understand but we'd rather see them surrender an animal than to abandon them."
These dogs and cats, left to roam the countryside, continue to reproduce and cause the problem of overpopulation.
GRAS is addressing animal overpopulation through education and programs to help those who are unable to afford the cost of spaying or neutering their pets.
"Spay and neuter for pets is the main thing," Ford said. "If people would spay and neuter, we wouldn't have this (overpopulation) problem."
This year an anonymous donor contributed $25,000 to the shelter.
The generous donation is now paying for spay and neuter vouchers given out free to locals who meet certain criteria.
All residents of Adair, Metcalfe and Russell Counties receive a free spay/neuter voucher with each pet adopted at GRAS.
Anyone who has adopted a pet from the shelter in the last two years and anyone 65 years old or older who currently own a dog or cat are eligible to receive a free voucher to get their pet spayed or neutered.
Also, anyone who owns a dog or cat they want to keep but has a litter of unwanted puppies or kittens and brings the litter to the shelter, will be provided a free voucher for the adult female to be spayed.
The goal for the shelter is to place spayed and neutered pets in permanent adoptive homes and lower if not eradicate the need to euthanize.
October 23rd GRAS held an adoption day donating $300 worth of adoptions to local residents and collecting almost $600 in adoption fees.
Adoptions fees, $40 for dogs and $30 for cats, include first shots and worming.
Sometimes though, there are just too many unwanted animals and some are euthanized.
Ford said before she was director it was not unusual for 300 animals to be put down in a month.
Ultimately, Ford's goal is to get the euthanization rate down to zero.
"I would love to make this a 'no kill' shelter," said Ford.
Part of her plan toward achieving that goal is working with rescue organizations across the country and advertising animals up for adoption on the internet.
Animals for adoption are pictured and listed at on the shelter's website (www.greenriveranimalshelter.org), their Facebook page, and on Petfinder.com.
"(Rescue groups) have helped my euthanization rate so, so much," said Ford.
Ford and transport volunteers travel hundreds of miles taking dogs to meet rescue organizers who provide temporary homes to animals and locate new permanent homes for them.
"They do thorough background and reference checks as well as home visits," said Ford. "It's almost like adopting a child."
Ford hears updates from some of her adopted friends such as Ginger, a Golden Retriever adopted by Lisa in Columbus, OH.
Lisa keeps in touch sharing stories about Ginger and pictures of her in her new love filled home.
Still, there are so many cats and kittens that have to be put down.
More cats are euthanized than dogs and Ford said she is looking for a cat rescue organization to help place homeless kitties.
With minimal funding, the shelter relies on donated money and donated items such as beds, blankets, and toys.
"We have a fiscal budget to manage in supplying necessary items," Ford said.
After operating expenses are covered, there is no money left to buy items such as a grooming table and a large scale to weigh big dogs.
The shelter receives money donated by local individuals and businesses and Ford plans to start Pennies for Pups by setting out donation containers in local businesses so folks can give their spare change to help.
"We've had donations of towels, blankets, food, cleaning supplies - you name it," Ford said. "We're really happy to receive donations."
Anyone interested in volunteering, donating goods or money, or more information on adoption and spay/neuter programs may contact Sandy Ford at 270-385-9655, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website: www.greenriveranimalshelter.org.