County tapped to receive help for strays

The effort to reduce the unwanted pet population in Shelby County is about to get some big-time help.

Shelby County has been selected as one of two communities in the country by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for its Mission: Orange program, which aims to reduce the number of animals euthanized in shelters.

The other community selected for the program is Sacramento, Calif.

Ronda Steciuk, executive director of the Shelby County Humane Society, said, “We are thrilled to have a chance to join what is a unique effort to save the lives of homeless pets in our community.”

She said those at the Shelby Humane Society and the county’s Environment Services department will spend a year working intensely with consultants of all kinds from the ASPCA, headquartered in New York.

“They will send veterinarians, shelter professionals and those who specialize in community outreach here,” Steciuk said. “It’s going to be a year of intensive work. We’ll get lots of top-of-the-line consulting and assistance.”

Also, some workers from the Shelby County Humane Society and the county’s Environmental Services department will travel to Richmond, Va., to learn from that community’s successful operations.

“Richmond is the model community for public and private groups working together to reduce the number of unwanted animals,” Steciuk said. “They went no-kill there in 2002. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

At present, the live release rate, or number of animals that exit the Shelby County shelter system alive has leveled off at 40 percent. That number, though unacceptable by many standards, is an improvement, thanks to programs like the Shelby Humane Society’s Quick Fix.

Steciuk said more than 1,210 spay and neuter surgeries were accomplished in the last 12 months because of that program.

“We’re hoping to complete 2,000 surgeries in the next 12 months,” she said.

The selection process for the program wasn’t easy, Steciuk said.

“Both myself and Chad Scroggins from Shelby County Environmental Services did our part on the application. We started in November, and it took us about a month to complete it.”

After the application was submitted, Steciuk and Scroggins were notified in January that the community was a finalist in the program. What followed was a series of interviews and conference calls with an ASPCA selection team. It wasn’t until March 5 that ASPCA released the names of the two communities chosen for the program.

“It’s a good chance for change to come. For a long time, lots of people have tried to do it on their own, but we really didn’t come together. We’re fortunate because we’ve been working closely with the county for the last two years addressing a number of things, which have improved drastically,” Steciuk said.