'A really good feeling': Pet adoptions are up in St. Clair County

News-DemocratJanuary 28, 2014 

Weekend adoption hours and dozens of volunteers helped St. Clair County significantly increase the number of pets rescued in the past year, according to county officials.

Since beginning a volunteer-focused pet adoption program, 59 volunteers helped the county Animal Services Department boost the number of cats and dogs adopted from 720 in 2012 to 849 in 2013 -- an 18 percent jump.

Volunteer Brian Blevins, 24, of Millstadt, said he enjoys helping families find a pet.

"It's a really good feeling when all the animals have been adopted out," Blevins said. "That's the goal, to find them permanent homes so we can bring in new animals that don't have homes, then find a new home for them."

Blevins said he volunteered because he wanted to be proactive in helping pets.

"I wanted to actually go out and do something for the animals. What better way to do that volunteer? I'm an animal lover and it's something I felt I needed to do," he said.

Fellow volunteer Ruth Hoercher, 75, said she volunteered because she believed every pet should have a home if possible.

"I think they need a home and love animals very much, very much," Hoercher said. "I like working with the people down there, and the hours are good. We come and go as we want."

Hoercher said most of her work involves playing with dogs and cats to socialize them for their new homes.

"You can't really adopt them unless they are socialized," Hoercher said. "Animals may look pretty but if they are not social a (family) may bring them back unless they are able to work it out."

Opening the county's Adoption Center on Saturdays has been another factor helping strays find a home, according to St. Clair County Board member Stephen Reeb. Reeb chairs the board's Animal Services Committee, which oversees the county's Animal Services Department.

The Saturday hours began in April along with the volunteer program. St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern said the county welcomes all volunteers, who help pets become socialized and find permanent homes.

Volunteers help with the adoption center, Animal Services Director Jim Jacquot said, with animal control services performed strictly by county employees.

"It's been really good because volunteers are walking dogs, bathing them on a regular basis. ... We never had time to do that," Jacquot said.

Volunteers this past summer also brought pets to 14 adoption events, which bring together pets and people looking to adopt, Jacquot said.

"That's one of the things we could really use help with," Jacquot said. "The majority of events we went to, two-thirds of the people we sent were volunteers because if we send an employee we must pay them (overtime). So the volunteers are very important for those events."

The county's three animal control officers solely answer calls from residents for help with stray animals throughout the day, Jacquot said. He said officers do not randomly patrol for strays.

"The fact of the matter is we haven't had the time to do that for many years," Jacquot said. "It's been eight years since we've done a random stray patrol. We just don't have time."

The Animal Services Department includes nine full-time employees. The department has an annual budget of about $494,000 -- about 1.4 percent of the county's total $34.9 million operating budget.

The county's adoption center at 1250 S. 11th St. in Belleville is open 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays.

The Belleville Area Humane Society, located nearby at 1301 S. 11th St. in Belleville, is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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