ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County Animal Advocates has increased the number Facebook posts with photos and videos of dogs and cats from the Richmond County Animal Shelter who need to be adopted soon — and thanks to social media, many have found homes.
“Basically, we kind of scaled things back last year,” said Allison Sweatt of RCAA. “I needed a break, physically and mentally. In a profession like this, it’s easy to get burned out. If you’re in animal welfare, whether it’s animal control, rescues and transfers, the people who do this don’t just do it as a hobby — it’s a passion.”
Sweatt said when RCAA began, the group focused more on animals “out on the streets,” but have since shifted their attention to those that wind up in the county shelter. As many animal welfare advocates would agree, Sweatt said the work can weigh heavy on the heart at times.
“It’s emotionally draining, because you have people who will drop their 15-year-old dog off to us and think nothing about it,” she explained. “But as rescue workers, when those animals get to the shelter, we need to find them homes and we have to keep them moving. It’s disheartening when someone brings the 15-year-old dog to the shelter, without a shed of a tear or bat of an eye.”
The county animal shelter, she said, does all it can to adopt animals into loving homes — but it is not a no-kill shelter.
“At the shelter on any given day, they have between 30 and 50 dogs and puppies, and probably at least 15 to 20 cats, give or take,” Sweatt said. “We are doing some courtesy posting for the animal shelter now. My work time has been more flexible, so I’ve taken pictures and have been posting them. It encourages foot traffic to the shelter.”
She said that so far, the effort has paid off for several dogs and cats in need of homes — but that for each one adopted, there are always more being brought in.
“We place animals easy-peasy from One Man’s Junk,” she said. “But with the animal shelter, if they have room, they have room. If they don’t, they don’t. The goal is for all the groups to focus on getting as many as we can out of there, to keep those kennels open.”
She said it is even more pressing for animals who have been in the shelter the longest.
“If not for us and the Humane Society, a lot more animals would be euthanized,” she added
Social media, according to Sweatt, has made matching pets with new homes easier than in the past.
“You can’t ever get enough coverage,” she said. “We posted this cat video and it got over 2,000 shares and views. Someone adopted that cat as soon as the shelter opened the next day. Social media is a big outlet for this. The more places they’re posted, the better.”
Once a post goes up on the RCAA Facebook page, she said, animals in the shelter become animals of the internet, reaching the hearts of more people.
“That’s the beauty of it,” Sweatt said. “People are networking them. And the majority of the animals are getting rescued by people from outside Richmond County. It’s all about networking everything together: the shelter, the Humane Society and the rescues. You have to lean on each other to move the majority of the animals. In rescue, people say, ‘It takes a village.’ And it does.”
Sweatt stressed the importance of having dogs and cats spayed and neutered as a means to control the over-population of animals that often end up in the shelter.
“The animal shelter has a spay-neuter program, and it is very affordable,” Sweatt said. “Get your dogs fixed. We see hundreds of puppies each month online, ‘Free to a good home.’ But these people aren’t getting these dogs fixed. Then they get bored and take them to the shelter. My biggest message is that everyone needs to work together for the greater good. Keep the shelter empty.”
For information on adoption or the county spay-neuter program, call Cindy Chambers at 910-895-0335.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.