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As many Burke County residents know, big changes have occurred at Burke County Animal Services Center (formerly Burke County Animal Control) over the past six months.

On Aug. 5, 2019, with overwhelming support from local residents and rescues groups alike, Burke County Animal Services began operating under the Burke County manager, with new goals, ideas and mission.

Once a place viewed as “the pound,” BCAS now aims to be, not only a place people come to find their lost dog or cat, but also an adoption and resource center for the citizens of Burke County.

In an effort to lower the euthanasia rate of healthy, adoptable animals, we began using a “managed owner intake model” so that the flow of animals in better matches the rate at which they are able to leave the shelter through adoption or rescue.

Owners looking to surrender their animals are asked to make an appointment on an open day, which may be several days or weeks away. This gives the healthy, adoptable animals a better chance of having a live outcome.

For comparison, in 2017, 2,047 animals were owner surrendered to Burke County Animal Control. Sixty-four percent of these owner surrenders were euthanized. 2018 is much the same, with 1,683 owner surrenders and 68 percent of them euthanized. In 2019, Burke County Animal Services saw 671 owner surrenders, with 34 percent of these being euthanized — a drastic drop in both intake and euthanasia of owner surrenders. 2020 will reflect a continuation of this beneficial trend.

Some residents may be upset about this change — after all, it is their tax dollars at work to keep BCAS running. Many have questioned what purpose we serve if we refuse to take their animals off their hands immediately when they can no longer care for them.

We explain that most municipal shelters run by local governments, such as BCAS, are obligated to take in stray dogs. Many voluntarily expand their services to include intake of cats and owner surrenders, but that is not the primary purpose of municipal shelters. Despite asking owners to make an appointment for surrender, BCAS is still an “open admission shelter,” because we intake animals regardless of age, health or temperament.

At BCAS, we do our best to educate pet owners on realistic expectations for rehoming their pets. The following excerpt from Wake County Animal Center’s webpage perfectly states why surrendering your pet to a municipal shelter should be a last resort:

“Although we make every effort to save the animals in our care, all animals surrendered to the Wake County Animal Center may be euthanized for health, temperament or space issues. Therefore, if you need to rehome your pet, please make surrendering to the Wake County Animal Center your last option. You are the best advocate for your pet and are more equipped to promote your animal as you know them best.”

Pet owners in Burke County are lucky to have immense resources for help with their pets. From food donations, low cost spay/neuter resources, dog training, and even rehoming — there are local rescues or people that can help. BCAS is happy to distribute these potential resources to those who ask.

If you are looking to rehome your pet, keeping them until you find a suitable home may be the best option, as shelter environments can be scary and disorienting.

Getting your pet current on vaccines and having them spayed or neutered will also make the pet more attractive to others. If owners need assistance with these, please reach out to BCAS for resources. Post a flyer in your community, at your local veterinary offices, for example, and look into websites such as petfinder.com, adoptapet.com and rescueme.org for free pet rehoming postings. Rescue groups are often filled to capacity, but some may offer to network your pet on their website or social media pages as well.

As always, the best way to control the number of homeless and unwanted animals is to spay and neuter your pets. Local options include REASON (828-403-3675), Fido Fixers (828-490-1578), and Hearts & Hands (828-584-6751). Other low-cost options may be available intermittently, so please reach out to Burke County Animal Services at 828-764-9588 if you need assistance. We are here to help.

Lindsay Stump is animal services coordinator at Burke County Animal Services.

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