Shelby Humane, a non-profit organization founded in 1977 with a mission to rescue and rehome neglected and homeless pets in Shelby County, was recently granted “no-kill shelter” status after reaching a 97% live release rate for 2021.
The shelter has found permanent homes for 2,024 animals, increased its housing space by expanding its foster program, and created a team-focused, board-supported lab release program. In total, he provides care to more than 5,000 dogs and cats each year.
“It hasn’t all been easy,” said chief operating officer Bill Rowley. “Saving more animals takes more space, more time or staff, and more veterinary care. Achieving nonkilling status was not easy and required fundamental change.
To qualify as a no-kill shelter, 90% of animals must be released alive, all adoptable animals must be rescued, and only non-adoptable or non-treatable animals may be euthanized. This scenario only happens to animals that are critically ill or terminally ill and have no chance of improving their quality of life.
“These don’t count towards the shelter because we did everything we could,” Rowley said.
NEW LEADER, NEW CHANGES
Rowley took over as Chief Operating Officer at Shelby Humane in November. He and his wife, Rebecca, own Ingadi Flower Farm in Chelsea and oversee a university they started in Brazil.
Although Rowley does not have a background in animal welfare, he does have experience in nonprofits and management. He spent time visiting other humane societies across the country to learn best practices for a roadmap to making Shelby Humane a better organization.
“There was a lot to do in terms of the immediate changes,” Rowley said. “Probably the most significant change within the organization has been improved communication and the holding of weekly staff meetings. We have made key recruitments, including an experienced medical manager.”
Alabama is the only state in the country that does not allow the hiring of a veterinarian in the shelter. This presents some challenges, including the inability to administer rabies vaccines, offer spaying and neutering services on site, or emergency surgery for animals brought in by animal control officers. Shelby Humane partners with veterinarians for these tasks. The medical manager oversees daily medications, checks the general health of the animals and works with local veterinary partners.
One of the things Rowley said Shelby Humane has recently accomplished is being able to vaccinate, spay, and neuter all animals in its care within a maximum of two weeks.
“About once a week we have a vet on site doing vaccinations,” Rowley said. “For spaying and sterilization, we work with the nonprofit Alabama Spay and Neuter in Irondale. We perform a phenomenal amount of spaying and spaying of animals each month, typically around 200 per month.
Shelby Humane currently has 43 employees, but Rowley said that number changes regularly.
“We could definitely use more staff, but as a nonprofit, sometimes the constraint for us isn’t labor market availability,” he said.
Under contract with Shelby County, Shelby Humane provides animal shelter service to its animal control offices. This money represents about a third of the budget. The remaining amount for operations comes from individual donors, some foundations and grants.
“They are a contractor to us for animal control and to accommodate county residents,” Shelby County Executive Chad Scroggins said. “We provide them with financial assistance through the contract, and they are housed in a county-owned building. We have partnered with them for years, and the live release rates and sterilization program have resulted in significant improvement in numbers in our county.
► Sterilize and Sterilize: Shelby Humane offers spaying and neutering services for private pets. Pickup is available at Shelby Humane in Columbiana every Monday and Wednesday and at Winn-Dixie in Chelsea and Old Town Pottery in Pelham every other Thursday. Sterilizing dogs costs $75, while neutering dogs costs $60. Spaying or neutering cats costs $45.
► SafePet: Since 2018, Shelby Humane has offered SafePet, a free program that provides shelter and veterinary care for pets of victims of domestic violence fleeing their situation. It is the only shelter in the state that offers this program and provides the services to seven counties in Alabama.
In these situations, Shelby Humane works with different counties to integrate dogs or cats into their program. They are then kept in a kennel or with a foster family to ensure their safety. In addition to housing, SafePet can also provide veterinary care for injured pets and other health issues due to abuse, veterinary forensic examinations to document abuse, preventive care needed for boarding, and supplies including pet food, crates, leashes and kitty litter. . SafePet can also help pay pet deposits when the pet is reunited with the family.
Rowley said that, statistically, if victims of domestic violence are reunited with their pet, they have a much higher recovery rate and are less likely to be victims of domestic violence again.
► Assisted Living: During the pandemic, Shelby Humane employees and volunteers have launched this outreach initiative to provide much needed care and comfort to residents or assisted living facilities in Shelby County. These included Premier Assisted Living in Columbia and Maplewood Lane Assisted Living in Helena.
“It’s a win-win,” Rowley said. “Animals can come out of their cages and be able to enrich themselves, and residents can walk them and love them. We have regulars who eagerly await the arrival of the animals and who are delighted. For an hour or two, they can entertain and play with dogs and cats and enrich their lives without the responsibility of long-term care. Some also post dog information on social media for adoption.
WAYS TO HELP
► Adoption Ambassador Program (fostering): The Adoption Ambassador Program is a part of the foster program that encourages foster families to foster adoptable animals and help them find forever homes.
Rowley said the shelter has about 310 animal spaces and generally operates at more than 100% animal care due to their foster care program. As of February, the program had over 80 pets in foster care until they were granted permanent homes.
The different types of placement include newborn (caring for puppies and kittens until they are old enough to be adopted); medical foster care (short-term medical care when an animal is recovering from surgery); behavior fosters (help change dog behaviors so they can become adoptable).
In 2021, the foster program placed 1,419 animals in temporary private homes.
► Transportation Program: One of the reasons Shelby Humane was able to gain no-kill status is because she is able to transport animals to northern states for adoption. Several states have strict neutering and neutering laws, so there are no adoptable animals. This program helps reduce the number of pets in care, while helping them find forever homes.
Shelby Humane’s transportation program found forever homes for 400 pets last year. Most of them were adopted by local families, but many were transported to partner shelters in the North East.
Partners include humane societies in Wisconsin and humane societies in New Jersey and Maryland. Rowley said the shelter is currently looking to expand to other states. Volunteer drivers are also needed for this program, as three to four trips are made each month, with travel costs covered.
► Shelby Humane Best Friends: This volunteer group strives to make a difference in the lives of homeless pets in Shelby County by providing financial support through the planning and execution of special events and fundraisers. It is a sister organization to the Animal Rescue League of Birmingham.
► Donations: Rowley said the shelter uses a large amount of dog treats, cleaning supplies and dish soap.
There’s an Amazon Wish List of items on the Shelby Humane website, as well as an updated list of items donors can purchase and drop off at the shelter.
► Events: Several events have already taken place this year and more are to come. On March 6, Shelby Humane hosted a Crawfish Boil & Adoption event at Pub 261. There was a Pelham Paws in the Park Adoption Vaccination Clinic on March 20. In April, it hosted animal photos with the Easter Bunny, and Designer Bag Bingo was planned. at the Club on May 4.
For more information about Shelby Humane and ways to help, visit shelbyhumane.org. Donations can be made by texting SHELBY to 26989.