WAY 0421 Survival

Moriah Good snuggles Abby, a dog up for adoption at the Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center

LYNDHURST-What does it take to have a high survival rate at the municipal pound? Passion, hard work and adoptions, director Lindsey Huffman of Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center said. The numbers are in and they look great. In 2016, SVASC’s current save rate is 99 percent, the highest in the shelter’s history.

From January until mid April, the shelter took in 218 cats and 289 dogs. Nearly half were adopted as 101 cats and 136 dogs found a human companion. Two cats and 85 dogs were returned to their owners while 207 cats and 91 dogs were transferred to recue partners. This leaves only three cats and five dogs unable to be saved.

While the numbers are impressive, Huffman said the animals are more than just a statistic.

“We don’t typically just look at the numbers as far as the percentage that we’re saving. We do like to individualize each animal and do what’s best for that animal,” Huffman said. “I think the numbers just show the amount of work that goes in on a daily basis to just having the compassion and mentality to want to save as many as we possibly can.”

SVASC opened in September of 2011. The 99 percent save rate is the highest save rate in its five year history.

“It’s all collaboratively based upon our willingness to look at animals as individuals and develop a plan for that particular animal. Whatever we can do to make that animal more adoptable and more appealing to adopters, rescues and transfer agencies,” Huffman explained.

“I think it all stems from us absolutely loving animals not having any discrepancies towards breed, color, age and all the things in other shelters that can make them unadoptable or less adoptable. We like to make sure no matter what they had coming into the shelter, their life is going to improve going out.”

SVASC transports many animals to other rescue groups or other shelters.

“We don’t have the amount of people that a lot other shelters have coming through the door on a daily basis to adopt. Those animals are going places where their length of stay will be much shorter than it would be here,” Huffman said.

The one percent of animals that didn’t survive were due to injuries, illness and behavior. One cat and two dogs were euthanized because of their injuries after they were hit by a car, two cats and one dog suffered from illness that could not be treated and two dogs were court ordered to be put down after they were declared a danger to the community.

SVASC is an open admission shelter; this means they must take in every animal that comes through the door. This gives them difficult cases that add to the statistics.

“A lot of times Augusta County Animal Control are in the first line of defense for animals. They often pick animals up that have been hit by cars or other traumatic injuries that are suffering or are beyond our medical care. They are unable to live comfortably; that’s what we take into consideration: the quality of life of the animal. With that being said, we do like to treat medical cases as much as we can,” Huffman said.

“Most of the behavioral dogs that we receive, a lot of them have been involved with the court system and have been deemed to be destroyed for one reason or another. Unfortunately those animals we have no control over the outcome,” she added.

SVSASC hopes to keep their save percentage high as they continue into the year. May through August is the hardest time of the year from them. The intake of animals skyrockets with the warmer weather. They normally see more dog bites and animals running at large.

“We hope to continue to be able to save as many as we can through those months as well,” Huffman mentioned. “These are the most trying times that an animal shelter has to face during the entire year.”

Even though the numbers look positive, Huffman said they can’t survive without the help of the community and will continue to need help.

“All the donations we receive go directly into caring for our animals; whether that be monetary donations, items that are donated, volunteers, fosters or adopters,” Huffman said. “These animals that we serve are coming directly from our community. I think in order to impact the animals of Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro, we rely heavily on our community to support us in various ways.”

As they move forward in the year, Huffman’s goal is to increase their adoption rates. She hoped to create more programs to help animals be adopted to the community.

“We really want to increase our adoption rate to our local area and help find the right match for folks that are in search of a new pet. We do urge anyone that hasn’t visited the shelter to come visit us. We would love to just talk to people about what they feel we’re doing and have some feed back in ways that we can improve,” Huffman said. “There’s always room for improvement. No matter what your numbers look like. I think that you can always do better.”

SVASC is located at 1001 Mt Torrey Rd in Lyndhurst. They may be reached via Facebook on their page “Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center” or phone at 540-943-5142.

Michelle Mitchell is a reporter and photographer for the News Virginian. She may be reached at mmitchell@newsvirginian.com or twitter at @MichelleTNV.

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