TILTON — The Vermilion County Animal Regulations and Adoption Center is struggling with a higher-than-usual number of dogs and cats. Despite that, euthanasia is a last resort, and many animals are going to rescue groups and new homes.
The public can take certain steps — such as adopting at shelters and spaying/neutering — to help with the problem.
“There are solutions out there if people would just look. These are living, breathing beings,” said Melanie Clawson, volunteer coordinator/community outreach for the shelter.
Director Tony Van Camp said there are 357 animals “in custody” right now, including several in foster homes. The shelter on Catlin-Tilton Road has 185 cat cages and 64 dog kennels, and brings in temporary housing when needed.
Since January, 1,502 animals have been brought in. Last year, 1,320 animals were brought during this same time period. That’s 200 fewer animals than the shelter is seeing now.
The higher number can be attributed to more people abandoning or surrendering their pets, Van Camp said, and not being honest about the animal’s background when they do bring it in.
Of the 1,502 animals seen this year, 380 were surrendered by owners, 507 were seized (abandoned or held for court cases), and 426 were picked up as strays.
So far this year, 311 animals have been adopted, 184 have been returned to their owners (a low 19 percent out of 933 animals picked up as strays or seized) and 442 have gone to rescues.
Of the 1,502 animals, about 200 have been euthanized due to illness, aggression or lack of space. That’s down dramatically from past years, when euthanasia numbers could run as high as 700.
Contributing to the lower number is that the Vermilion County Animal Shelter Foundation has been treating ill or injured animals that would have been euthanized in the past. The group accepts donations and holds fundraisers to help with medical costs.
Also, there’s a greater push to send animals to rescue groups. And other animal groups — including the Humane Society of Danville, the Hoopeston Animal Rescue Team and Champaign County — have pulled out dogs and cats for their no-kill shelters.
“We try not to euthanize unless we have to,” Van Camp said. “I’d like to place everyone.”
Vermilion County is an open intake shelter, which means it must accept all animals. There is no charge if an owner turns in his pet, unless the animal is aggressive or has a chronic illness. Then, the fee is $30.
Van Camp stressed it’s important for a person to be truthful, to say that this was a pet and not a stray. If an animal is a stray, it must be held for seven days. If it’s a pet, it will be held for 24 hours.
Thus, it’s much better for the dog or cat if it can be put on the adoption floor as quickly as possible. It has a better chance of finding a home.
People are hesitant to turn in an animal, Van Camp said, but the shelter has connections and resources to help place that pet.
It’s especially cruel to leave animals behind when people move, as then the shelter doesn’t know the animal’s background and it may take more time to place it.
The shelter also is fortunate to have foster homes that will take in injured or ill animals.
HOW TO HELP
Van Camp had some suggestions for people who want to help the county shelter and others with their overpopulation problems:
• Consider adopting through a shelter rather than a breeder, he said, adding, “We’ve got a lot of good dogs and cats here looking for forever homes. Shelter animals appreciate that and show that loyalty and thankfulness when in a home.”
• If you can’t take care of an animal, don’t get one. Consider your finances, family, lodging, time and other issues before making that commitment.
• Spay and neuter your pets to prevent overpopulation. The University of Illinois comes once a week to offer low-cost surgeries.
• Get your animal vaccinated and keep him contained. The shelter offers low-cost rabies clinics and other services.
Clawson suggested that people keep litters of kittens or puppies at home until they’re 8 weeks old. Then, bring the babies in for vaccinations and take them home until the next set of shots is due.
That will help overcrowding, and cats especially get stressed easily, which leads to illness.
Foster homes have helped relieve overcrowding, too, but those are used only for animals with medical or emotional needs. Healthy dogs are not in foster care, as that would make it more difficult for the public to see them.
As for cats, she said, “The problem is everywhere.”
“If you have feral cats and you don’t want to trap, call here and ask. We rent out traps, but don’t personally do trap-and-release,” she said. Trap-and-release is a process where feral cats are caught, sterilized and returned to the wild.
The shelter also provides cats to live in barns and catch mice.
Releasing animals to rescue groups has helped the shelter, as well. People are needed who can drive an animal to a rescue site; the foundation will pay for the gas.
• Go to https://www.vercounty.org/animal.htm to learn more adoptions, special events and other news.
• Schools, civic groups and other organizations may request a presentation by calling the shelter at 431-2660.
• Vendors and sponsors are needed for the fundraiser, Showtime at the Shelter, on Sept. 28. Items for a silent auction may be dropped off at the Village Mall from noon to 4 p.m. on the first, third or fifth Saturday of the month.
• The shelter always needs volunteers, as well, to walk and socialize the animals.