Animal shelter thrives in new facility

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Photos By Sam Wall
Lydia Hypes (red shirt) of Newport asked her friends to bring dog and cat food to her fifth birthday party instead of more traditional presents. Lydia along with her sister Marin (also pictured) and mother Tanya donated the food to the Montgomery County Animal Care and Adoption center.

Since the new Montgomery County Animal Care and Adoption Center opened at the end of April, Director Eileen Mahan said that the number of volunteers has increased tenfold.


“A lot of volunteers said that they wanted to help before but couldn’t bring themselves to work at the old shelter. They said it was just too depressing,” she said.

Now, she estimates that there are over 200 volunteers signed up with more coming everyday.

According to Mahan, the old facility could only house around 30 dogs, and no other pets, which forced employees to have to make a lot of tough decisions.

When new dogs came in, employees had to find other accommodations for the dogs, hoping someone would adopt them or that a nearby rescue shelter could take them; however, sometimes euthanizing them was the only option.

“It is really great that it is something we no longer have to worry about,” Mahan said.

According to a presentation given Deputy County Administrator Carol Edmonds, the number of animals that the county has been able to help has exceeded expectations. In the first 50 days of operations, 245 animals were taken to the facility (about five per day): 125 cats, 117 dogs, one ferret and two mice.

In that same amount of time, 186 animals left the center with 29 cats and 44 dogs being adopted. Forty-nine of those animals (46 dogs and two cats) went home to there owners, including the ferret. The remaining 34 animals that left went to rescue groups, including the two mice that were brought to the shelter.

The shelter has the capacity to hold 68 dogs and 64 cats. Mahan said that the shelter will accept other animals if all the necessary equipment to care for them is included.

She also noted that while new volunteers to the shelter are always welcome, that is not the only way for citizens to help.

The shelter is always accepting donations of food and other materials as county funds cover just over half of the shelter’s annual operating budget (approximately $473,000). The food she said is needed most right now is pate style cat food for the kittens.

Along with donations from local businesses are individuals stepping up to the plate. Newport resident Lydia Hypes, 5, decided that she had enough toys, so she requested that her friends bring dog and cat food to her party instead.

Volunteer Hayley Nixon walks Pippa in the courtyard of the animal care center. Pippa has one of the longest residencies at the Animal Care and Adoption Center as she was transferred from the old facility and has been in the county’s care since Nov. 2016. Director Eileen Mahan said that Pippa’s shyness is why she has yet to be adopted, but said that the dog is a favorite among staff and volunteers.

“Those types of donations are crucial to our operation. It is great to see people care so much,” Mahan said.

She also noted that there are often misconceptions regarding the animals and why they are at the shelter.

“These are animals that often have to come to the shelter through no fault of their own,” she said.

She said that many times animals are brought to the shelter because their owners are too old and can no longer care for them properly or the owners’ circumstances change and they have to give them up.

She recommends that those looking to adopt a pet to do their research and to give the pets enough time to acclimate to their new situation before giving up on them.

To learn more about the shelter or what citizens can do to help, visit www.montgomerycountyva.gov/acac.

The new shelter, which opened at the end of April, now has the capacity to house cats. These two furry fellas are enjoying some rest and relaxation in one of the rooms designated for cats.

Animal Care and Adoption Center wish list:

  • Purina Cat Food
  • Canned cat food
  • Cardboard cat scratchers
  • Cat litter
  • Kong Dog Toys
  • Nylabones
  • Soft dog treats
  • Laundry detergent
  • Cat toys
  • Canned kitten food
  • Clorox wipes
  • Dish soap
  • Canned puppy food
  • Small breed dog food
  • Scrub brushes
  • Paper towels
  • Newspaper
  • Animal shelter thrives in new facility