By Cameron Rasmusson
The times, they are a-changin’ at Panhandle Animal Shelter (PAS). And in many ways, Sandpoint is changing along with it.
Mandy Evans, PAS executive director, has witnessed the reinvention of Sandpoint into a more pet-friendly culture herself since she moved here in 2008. With dogs and cats an increasingly common sight in town, Evans said the shelter has striven to meet the increased demands of the community. The effort paid off in several new services worthy of the pet-loving town Sandpoint has become.
“The more we’re a dog town, the more it promotes that human animal connection, which we’re all about,” Evans said.
One of the biggest changes is more intangible than a list of services that might show up on a stakeholders report; the PAS staff has worked hard to transform the very culture that underpins the shelter.
According to Evans, too many shelters make the mistake of lifting animals up while putting people down. That usually happens through high fees, shaming owners for mistakes and scrutinizing adopting families too rigorously for income or housing stability.
While those might seem like good parameters to ensure a successful rehoming of a dog or cat, Evans finds that the opposite is true. Judging from the shelter’s recent numbers, an easy, streamlined adoption process, low fees and flexibility help animals find new homes and keep them there.
“We’re actually seeing fewer animals that need resheltering,” Evans said.
This year, the average daily dog population sits at under 40 and cats at 70. Compare that to 2011, when the shelter housed 100 dogs and 175 cats every day. In addition, more than 500 dogs and cats have received spaying or neutering services this year. For its work, the shelter received an A+ rating from both the University of Wisconsin and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Thanks to strong community support from businesses and grant organizations, the shelter has introduced new programs for Sandpoint’s growing pet community. A new help line, for instance, gives pet owners the resources they need to get out of jam. It also brings to light options pet owners might not have considered. In one case, Evans said an individual was looking to surrender a dog because it kept attacking the family cat. PAS staff were able to recommend an alternative solution: providing the dog with training to keep the peace in the house. By all accounts a valuable new resource, the help line is funded through grants from the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, the Equinox Foundation and the Petco Foundation.
The Home-To-Home program is another new effort that has recently been catching on with the public. The idea is to avoid the sometimes traumatic experience of bringing a surrendered animal into the shelter kennels by skipping the step completely. When it becomes clear that an owner simply can’t take care of a pet any longer, they can visit www.home-home.org and attempt to link with a prospective new owner directly. The shelter helps by connecting participants through social media. When Home-To-Home works, it means a dog or cat can transition directly from one comfortable and loving home to another.
Funded through contributions from Columbia Trust, the Home-To-Home program has picked up steam through media coverage, social media and word of mouth, jumping from 250 to 1,500 views a week. Evans is encouraged by the growth.
“We need to keep this momentum up and see where it takes us,” she said.
The shelter was even able to take the pressure off their colleagues in Louisiana by accepting dogs from the flood-ravaged parts of the state. While the shelter’s policy is to maintain space for local needs, they were able to accept eight new arrivals—unclaimed dogs whose move freed up space for the animals displaced by flooding. The dogs were flown in by the organization Dog is My Copilot, one of several occasions the shelter has greeted dogs who arrived by air travel.
As always, the shelter relies on support from the public to maintain services. It just so happens that there are several ongoing drives benefiting the organization. Ambassadog is a fun campaign that will award a dog the title of Sandpoint’s canine ambassador on Sept. 29. To contribute, vote once per day for your favorite candidate at sandpointambassadog.com, or buy more votes through a minimum $1 donation to the shelter.
Runners—or those simply looking to enjoy a day outside with plenty of great people and pets—will also want to check out the Dover Bay 5K. Set for Sept. 25, this fun event is great for both serious competitors and casual walkers. Visit pasidaho.org/dover-5k-runwalk to register online.
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