The rain fell hard and steady March 10. The wind blew, and it was dark and cold outside by 7 p.m.
But that didn’t stop the nightly routine at the Oxford Animal Shelter — taking the impounded dogs for a walk outside through trails behind Center School.
“We take them for walks every day. We walk through all the paths,” said Cori Wlasuk, the town’s assistant animal control officer, and a former volunteer. “I want all my dogs to be socialized.”
Every night from 6 to 7:15, a group of dedicated volunteers gather at the animal shelter on Route 67.
The volunteers are on hand to meet with people interested in adopting one of the dogs housed there. Wlasuk said people even come to the shelter on Christmas.
“I can tell you everything about my dogs,” Wlasuk said. “I can tell you if they get along with other dogs. I can tell you if they get along with children. Or with cats.”
The daily open house hours are part of the reason Wlasuk and Animal Control Officer Sandy Merry are able to find homes for anywhere between 70 and 90 percent of the dogs they receive each year.
“Everything you can think of, we find homes for,” Wlasuk said. “We even find homes for pits.”
After four volunteers walked three dogs at the Oxford shelter last week, the volunteers stayed at the shelter until about 8 p.m. — letting the dogs run around inside.
Kylie, a Labrador-pit bull mix, chewed on a rubber ball while Spike, a golden Carolina dog, chased toys thrown by volunteers.
Nikki, a shepherd mix Oxford took in from the Waterbury Animal Shelter, curled up on a blanket and napped.
The dogs can stay as long as it takes to find them homes, Wlasuk said.
“They don’t have a time limit,” she said.
But the volunteers can even be selective about who they give animals too.
Oxford — and other Valley animal shelters with active animal control officers and volunteers — contrasts strongly with Derby.
Until January 2011, when animal rights groups complained to city officials in Derby about its unusually high kill rate, one out of two dogs taken into the Derby Animal Shelter was put to sleep.
Click here to see a detailed article about the animal kill rates in Derby.
High Adoption Rates
In the four other Valley towns, most of the dogs taken in are adopted out or returned to their owners. Officials said successful shelters use a mix of volunteer help, donated food and money, and online pet adoption sites to keep from killing dogs.
From several interviews with animal rescue groups, animal control officers and volunteers, some common best practices evolved.
The formula for adopting out dogs:
- Post dogs for adoption on PetFinder.com — a free website where interested owners can search by location and breed.
- Have good hours at the animal shelter to give opportunities for people to meet the dogs for adoption.
- Walk the dogs and play with them, so they are more social when prospective owners come to meet them.
- Reach out to animal rescue groups in the state. There are more than 100, and they include groups who specialize in helping adopt out pit bulls, and groups that help get donated food to animal shelters in need.
- Work with volunteers, who can raise money to house dogs long enough to place them. In Ansonia, volunteers host fundraisers, and gather food donations from local grocery stores. In Oxford, the volunteers spend hours each week with the dogs.