Shelter adds new wing to aid sick, injured animals

Nearing its final step before being operational, a new surgery wing at the Harlan County Animal Shelter brings pets one step closer to a new, healthy lifestyle they’ve waited for.

With construction now complete, officials now wait for supplies and equipment to arrive, noting calibration and sterilization will bring them one step closer to opening up for spay-neuter clinics and so much more in early spring.

“We’re very excited to have this facility because it’ll serve multiple purposes,” said Annie Fox, chairperson for the Harlan County Friends of the Shelter and Harlan Animal Advisory Board. “For one thing, we are getting animals in at the shelter that are in poor health, and it gives us a place to go to assess that animal, especially an injury, to determine if we can treat it there or send it off to a vet.”

Fox said it is also important to have low-cost spay and neuter clinics for the area to help those who may struggle with higher costs from other places, noting to have a solid schedule for the clinics at the animal shelter would help get people’s pets taken care of.

“Woodstock Animal Foundation is one of the oldest nonprofit animal foundations that do low-cost spay and neutering, so that’s who most of our surgeons will be coming through,” she said. “Also, we are a partner with Lincoln Memorial University’s veterinary school.”

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift, Fox said LMU students will come to the shelter under the tutelage of a professor to have “well care clinics,” where the students can learn in a clinical setting while helping to provide a service to the community through low-cost services.

Through a grant from PetSmart Charities, locals will have better access to medications, such as heartworm and flea/tick, for their pets at a reduced cost, as well as the clinic visit, which Fox said will also be nominal, if not free.

“Of course, we partner with LMU now when they need animals for clinical assessments. We send them some dogs and cats, and they do exams on them, while also taking care of all of their medical needs at a very nominal charge and helping to socialize them. Then they help us adopt that animal out, so it’s a very great partnership,” she said.

Fox said depending on COVID-19 restrictions, she and other officials hope to have everything in place by late March and a spay-neuter clinic scheduled for early April, which the shelter hopes to have open every other month.

“We have a low-cost voucher program through the animal shelter for spay-neuter clinics right now, and you can apply through the animal shelter, which is how you will apply for this clinic, as well,” she said. “Then, we can make an appointment with a vet to do the surgery. But this is a good way to help others have more access to the clinics. It’s important to have a site like this.”

Fox said the surgery suite would not have been possible had it not been for a partnership between Harlan County Friends of the Shelter and Judge-Executive Dan Mosley and the rest of the Harlan County Fiscal Court.

“The judge and the fiscal court purchased all the materials for the construction of the suite, and Friends of the Shelter has been very fortunate to have several large donors that have donated on top of fundraisers,” she said. “People care about their animals. Whether it’s the $5, $10, $5,000 or $10,000 gifts we’ve had, each and every one of those are so important. Those things keep up going. We’ve been lucky during COVID-19 to be able to get grants to keep doing clinics.”

Fox said rescue work to help animals find their forever homes is another large part of the animal shelter and how animals are able to be rehabilitated back into a normal family lifestyle.

“The healthier we can keep those animals, the easier they are going to be to adopt out,” she said.

Fox said the shelter staff and Friends of the Shelter continue to try and educate the public about how the process works, with many fearful of euthanization.

“We try with everything we’ve got in us to make sure that doesn’t happen,” she said. “With the number of animals we get in a year, nearly 1,000, it would be a different story if we didn’t have our rescue partners and we weren’t able to get them adopted.”

As the clinic continues to develop, Friends of the Shelter works to help make sure animals are looked after and healthy.

To learn more about how you can help an animal at the Harlan County Animal Shelter, call 606-573-8867 for information on donations and more.