Members of the animal services unit in New Hanover County answer calls about dangerous dogs, dog bites, strays and requests to check on an abused animal. If you thought they just go pick up animals and take them straight to the shelter you're wrong.
Jodi Kerwin an animal services officer says pets don't belong in shelters and shared of story of how she brought a dog home.
"Rabies [vaccinations] was current, county license was current, come to find out he was 16 years old, so we were able to look it up in our system to find out where he lives and it was just right around the block so I took him home," Kerwin explained.
If an animal is brought into the shelter there is another attempt to find out if a family is frantically looking for it.
"We want them to go home. That's our first priority is we want to get them back in their home," said shelter supervisor Nancy Ryan. "We always scan for microchips. We look for tattoos. We actually have a staff member that will check Craigslist - a lot of people post on Craigslist now."
But Ryan says it's ultimately the owner's responsibility to look for a pet, and just calling won't work. You need to physically go to the shelter.
Once an animal is checked in it gets a lot of attention.
"It's constantly being assessed, the staff is constantly interacting with it because when they come in, obviously they are usually pretty frightened, so they'll work with it to try and bring it out of its shell and assess the personality of it," Ryan said.
By law an animal must be kept for a minimum of three days before being euthanized, but New Hanover County doesn't have a set time limit.
"If it's something that's going up for adoption, even after that it's got to wait for a surgery day. It's got o be fixed before it goes up for adoption. Those animals are here quite awhile," Ryan explained.
Despite all their efforts more than 1,000 cats and 600 dogs were euthanized in 2014.
"That's kind of an agonizing decision," Ryan said. "There's a group of us that do that."
One of the easiest ways to stop the deaths of shelter animals is to spay and neuter your pets.
"I wish everybody did that. It would alleviate a lot of our animals here," Ryan said.
Ryan and the other workers at the shelter also do everything they can to make sure an animal being euthanized is comfortable. It gets a special meal, is brought into a room where it's the only animal there, so its not loud and chaotic, then the dog or cat is rubbed and whispered to while the injection given.
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