To the Editor,
Our community is fortunate to have an animal shelter that is supervised by a hard-working volunteer board and staffed by an extraordinary group of selfless, caring and compassionate workers. The difficult task of caring for the lost, abandoned, sick and unwanted companion animals that have little or no choice in their fate can at times be miserable and emotionally draining.
I have had the pleasure of working with a number of directors, board members, staff and volunteers at the Hancock County Animal Shelter over the past 25 years, and with few exceptions their dedication has been remarkable. Along the way, there have been many highs and lows as one would expect with any organization. Recently, however, a number of serious issues arose which, in my opinion, could have resulted in irreparable consequences for the success and viability of our shelter. Overcrowding, infectious diseases, quarantine on animals accepted in or adopted out, with no easy pathway to success, jeopardized the shelter. As with all difficult and emotional issues, there were a variety of conflicting opinions on a formula to correcting the overwhelming problems. As an impartial but concerned professional, I gave my best advice that I am sure was at odds with some of the views held by others.
To the credit of the board and shelter employees, compromise and perseverance have led to a plan for turning around the overcrowding and health problems plaguing the shelter. A remarkable overhaul of the animal housing and the facility is under way. Cleaning, painting and a rise in successful adoptions have begun and have changed the emotional and physical atmosphere at our shelter. In addition, there are planned renovations to benefit all of the shelter animals thanks to a levy approved by the citizens of Hancock County. For all of us in our community who care for the welfare of our unwanted companion animals, a large debt of gratitude is due to our shelter employees, volunteers and board members.
The problem of unwanted pets, strays and feral dogs and cats will always be a concern in our community. However, our citizens can help contribute to the success of our shelter by volunteering time, supplies or funds to increase the comfort and welfare of the homeless animals for which we care. I am sure a much deserved thank you to those who dedicate countless hours away from their families to care for these abandoned pets would be appreciated.
The Hancock County Animal Shelter is continually looking for ways to increase community awareness of the overpopulation and shelter overcrowding issues, and at the same time encourage community involvement and support. Events like "Bark in the Park" and "Dog Walk at Tomblinson Run Park" which take numerous hours to plan and execute have been great successes in the past. Show your support for the tremendous work and success of our shelter by donating or attending the first fundraiser of the year on April 27, "Paws for Our Cause," a 5K fun walk/run on the Panhandle Trail in Weirton.
Mark D. Ferris, DVM
Hilltop Animal Hospital