Shelter Appreciation Week: At Huntsville Animal Services, the Support Mission leads

Published on November 10, 2021

Residents who have room in their home and a heart for a four-legged friend are encouraged to adopt or welcome a pet from Huntsville Animal Services (HAS) during National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week.

The celebration represents an opportunity to show appreciation for the local shelter, its staff and volunteers who not only provide valuable community service, but also save lives.

On average, HAS takes in around 5,000 animals per year – 3,000 dogs and 2,000 to 2,500 cats.

To help understand the importance of animal shelters, consider that there are approximately 3,500 brick and mortar shelters in the United States. ASPCA, shelters welcome about 6.3 million animals each year – about 3.1 million dogs and 3.2 million cats.

On average, HAS helps find homes for around 5,000 animals per year – 3,000 dogs and up to 2,500 cats. The refuge also hosts rabbits, horses, chickens, pet birds, pets like guinea pigs and other abandoned animals. HAS also manages sick and injured wild animals found locally.

Despite being overrun at times, the refuge prides itself on an consistently high live release rate. From January 1 to this week, 95% of animals that entered the shelter left via adoption, rescue groups, owner recovery, or other special releases. This number is significantly higher than the national average of 83% reported by Best Friends Animal Society, an animal rights group.

Deal of a lifetime

Director of HAS Dr Karen Sheppard said this week’s celebration highlights the importance of adopting or fostering a pet and why spaying and neutering is essential. HAS regularly offers adoption fees as low as $ 10 for adult pets, and sometimes waives the fee when the number of admissions skyrockets. Each adopted animal is sterilized or neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and comes with a free bag of pet food and a license from the City.

“For someone with an open heart and an open home, adopting a pet from Huntsville Animal Services is a really good deal,” Sheppard said. “I think there is a perception that a lot of our animals have health or behavioral issues, but we have so many great animals that would make great companions. We are fortunate to have a facility to provide great care to them while they are here, but our ultimate goal is to find them homes.

For existing pet owners, HAS administers a pet spaying and neutering program for low-income Alabamians who live within the city limits of Huntsville. The cost is $ 5 per animal, for up to six animals, and also includes a rabies vaccine.

Shelter improvements

When asked about improvements to HAS operations, Sheppard credited city leaders who invested in installing HAS at 4950 Triana Blvd. A 2020 expansion added a surgery center and double-sided kennels.

A view of a surgery room at Huntsville Animal Services.  There are overhead lights, an operating table covered with a sheet, and various machines and tubs that would be used by surgical staff.
An extension in 2020 added a surgery center and double-sided kennels.

A third expansion in progress approved by city council in June, will add a larger operating theater and secure garage to allow animal control officers to safely bring stray animals for assessment and treatment. The expansion will also combine bath stations, washers and dryers for the first time.

The improvements demonstrate the City’s support for HAS as well as the refuge’s commitment to serving the community and the animals in their care. Sheppard said HAS operations align with Five freedoms welfare programs that meet both physical and emotional needs.

Renovations in 2018 and 2019 improved ventilation flow to prevent the spread of disease and promote cleaner air. Double-sided dog kennels allow staff to clean up stains throughout the day, providing a cleaner environment for pets and visitors.

“Animal shelters are often as successful as the funding they receive, and we are grateful to have the support of our mayor and city council,” said Sheppard. “A big part of our mission depends not only on a first-class facility, but also on excellent support staff. “

Community support

HAS is also supported by a group of dedicated volunteers who regularly interact with the animals, whether it’s taking them to play or walking around the neighborhood. Animals can become stressed if left in kennels for too long, which is why volunteers perform an important function.

An example of donated cat trap covers used by Huntsville Animal Services.  Blankets help keep cats calm after entering a trap.
An example of donated cat trap covers used by Huntsville Animal Services. Blankets help keep cats calm after entering a trap.

Sheppard also thanked community members who regularly donate supplies like chew bones, toys, towels, food, bedding and other items. Donations helped secure new playground equipment for the dogs, and a group of volunteers provided HAS with blankets that fit over the traps to keep the cats calm.

A group of volunteers from the University of Alabama in Huntsville recently raised $ 1,500 for shelter supplies. And because laundry operations are affected by an ongoing renovation project, some community supporters do laundry at the shelter.

“The level of support that we are receiving from the community is really impressive,” said Sheppard. “Our volunteers are amazing, but we could always use more. We couldn’t do what we do without them and our generous supporters.

HAS is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 256-883-3782, visit or visit the HAS Facebook page to find out more.

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