On Tuesday, Rachael Wallace took her 2-year-old daughter, Katie, to the Ardmore Animal Care Inc. Animal Shelter to find a new pet for their family.

On Tuesday, Rachael Wallace took her 2-year-old daughter, Katie, to the Ardmore Animal Care Inc. Animal Shelter to find a new pet for their family.


“We went in looking for a dog that we could train to be a good watch dog, Rachael said. “We have gone to (the shelter) before and adopted dogs. It was very difficult to decide, because they have some really good dogs there.”


The two looked at young puppies, of which there are plenty at the shelter. They even led an older black-and-white border collie around the office before finally settling on Beauty, a 3-month-old Alaskan husky-type dog.


After the family filled out some paperwork, shelter workers said goodbye to Beauty as she went home with her new family. But for every dog like Beauty, there are thousands more who aren’t so lucky. Just the day before, 24 animals were surrendered to shelter officials and were found space in the kennels and cages along with the other dogs and cats hoping to be picked out by a new family.


But the odds aren’t in their favor. In 2010, more than 6,000 animals were brought into the shelter by families who could no longer keep them, by animal control or as strays. Although 300 or so were found and redeemed by their owners and almost 2,000 were adopted, many of those animals were dead on arrival and another more than 400 died while they were waiting for a home.


For more than 3,500 of the shelter residents, time ran out.


That’s how many animals had to be euthanized by the shelter staff.
Tena Layton, who is co-director of operations at the shelter, has very specific views on the subject, especially since she is one of the three techs at the shelter licensed to do the injections to euthanize animals at the facility.


Layton has worked at Ardmore Animal Care Inc. since January of 1997 and said every day is different, but the goal of making the animals as comfortable as possible hasn’t changed.


“Everyone here will tell you that in the beginning, one of their reasons for coming here was that we want to make a difference,” she said. “After you’ve been here awhile, you think if you don’t do it, who will?


“It’s all about compassion. We all want to take them all home, but we can’t,” Layton said. “But being here is better than what could happen to them.


“Being fed twice a day, getting shelter and blankets is better than being out fending for themselves,” she said. “No matter what the situation is, we would rather an animal come here than be kicked out on the street.”


Shelter Director Jeannine Jackson said that while the stats are still shocking, intake numbers are down from four years ago, the result of more than 4,000 pets being brought to the shelter for now-monthly spay-and-neuter clinics.


But that’s only a small dent. In the summer, especially, animals start pouring in, starting in March. There is only room for 250 animals. That means those who stay there longest are marked for euthanization to make room for the new animals coming in.


“We probably have eight to 10 dogs out there who have been here since May or June, and they are older dogs,” Jackson said. “Right now, more than 50 percent of our intakes are owners who can no longer take care of their pets.”


The typical day at the shelter starts at 7:30 in the morning, when staff come in to open up the kennels, pick up dirty blankets, feed and water the pets and start cleaning out the cages so the facility will be ready for the public when it opens at 10 a.m.


Weather permitting, both sides of the kennel area are opened to the outside air and dogs are allowed outside in fenced areas a row at a time.


New animals that come the shelter without a name are given one by the staff. If they are sick, they are taken to the bay and their illness is assessed and staff determines if they are adoptable.


Pets who are well and old enough are given distemper vaccinations, dewormed and treated for ear mites and fleas in an intake room. They are held for approximately four days to see if their owners look for them.


Those who are signed over by the owners are immediately put up for adoption.


“The economy has affected our intake numbers,” Jackson said. “Families may be moving to an apartment that doesn’t allow pets, they may have lost their jobs and can’t take care of them anymore. Our techs work with the owners to see if there’s any way they can keep the animal. If not, we give them a good, temporary home.


“When we decide to put them down, it’s an individual evaluation,” she said. “We do our best to find them a home, but we aren’t always able to do that.”


— See Monday’s Ardmoreite for
specific statistics in By the Numbers.