By Carol Vaughn —
The Eastern Shore Regional Animal Control Facility has made strides in recent years in finding homes for the dogs and cats that come its way, thanks in part to increased cooperation with volunteer organizations.
Molly, a sweet-natured, mixed-breed dog, is one former resident that found a happy home.
She has lived at Commonwealth Senior Living on the Eastern Shore in Onancock since being adopted five years ago.
Molly spends her time in the Memory Care wing of the retirement community, visiting with residents.
“She is such a tender, sweet, intuitive dog. She loves everyone. … She knows who needs her,” said Kristie Annis, executive director.
Molly has a bed in one of the offices, and room to roam outside in the enclosed courtyard.
“Everybody just pitches in and takes care of her,” Annis said.
Animal control staffers are always looking for new ways to help more animals find forever homes.
The Accomack County Sheriff’s Office maintains the facility at 28167 Beacon Road, near Melfa, which serves both Accomack and Northampton counties.
Each county has two animal control officers — Corporal Sue Burdge and Deputy Zach Parks in Accomack County and Deputy Melinda Elliott and Deputy Bradley Taylor in Northampton County.
Of 1,189 dogs and cats that came through the doors last year, 865 were strays and 321 were surrendered by their owners. Others were seized animals or bite cases.
Of the total, 89 were reclaimed by owners; 37 were adopted; 40 were transferred to another Virginia facility; and 693 were transferred to approved out-of-state facilities, according to records submitted to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Still, 267 animals, of which 202 were cats, had to be euthanized.
The number is down from 2017 when 443 of 1,463 animals taken in — including 357 cats — were euthanized.
Burdge, who oversees the facility, credits manager Stacey Clark, volunteers, and several non-profit groups with getting more animals placed these days.
The facility has 14 kennels and can fit up to 28 dogs at a time, plus cats.
The SPCA Eastern Shore is among local groups that takes animals from the regional facility.
The no-kill shelter, funded by donations, takes in around 150 to 200 animals each year in 28 dog kennels and several cat rooms, according to Maureen Lawrence, president of the board of directors.
The number includes animals from the animal control facility, as well as some surrendered by owners and transfers from other organizations.
Lawrence said lost pets should be reported to the regional animal control facility.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about what happens when you find a stray animal,” she said — calling animal control “the best chance of getting them back to an owner.”
After a mandatory holding period, the animal control facility can release an animal for adoption or to another agency, like the SPCA.
“So, what we do is, every week, we check with them — do they have what they consider adoptable animals? — and we will go down and get them,” Lawrence said.
She praised the staff, so few in number, for their outsized efforts to find placements for animals.
“They’ve done a lot of work this year putting a lot of the animals on Facebook … and looking for foster families. They’ve done an amazing job of putting the word out,” she said.
Melanie Parker, a volunteer who also works at a local veterinarian’s office, has helped boost the facility’s social media presence, which is a big help, according to Clark.
“We need 20 of her,” Clark said.
Additionally, keeping in close touch with organizations, including the SPCA, Dogs Deserve Better, Kindness Matters, Roadrunner Rescue, and others, has helped find homes for more animals, according to Burdge.
Dogs Deserve Better also raised $10,000 to install air conditioning in the regional facility.
Roadrunner Rescue, in Maryland, “takes 90% of our cats,” Burdge said, adding, “Last year, we sent five dogs as far as Michigan. We put dogs on the planes here in the airport (in Melfa) and flew them off to … Long Island.
That’s another promising trend.
“There are so many more out there, now, reaching out to us, and there are more people that want to help — that are offering to do transport, and offering to do whatever they can to save the animals,” Burdge said.
Among the messages she and Clark want to get out to the public:
Use the regional facility only as a last resort if you can’t keep your pet.
Keep your pet from straying off your property. The facility sees its share of repeat appearances by dogs who wander.)
Keep up on your pet’s rabies vaccinations.
Perhaps the most important message is to spay or neuter your pet, which reduces the number of unwanted animals.
One exciting development is that Accomack County recently was awarded a $10,000 grant to help spay and neuter animals.
Some money will go to spay or neuter animals adopted from the facility, and some to two trap-neuter-release groups in the county, Burdge said.
Additionally, the SPCA makes possible around 400 surgeries a year through a spay/neuter program it has in conjunction with Virginia Beach.
Accomack County gives $5,000 a year to subsidize pet surgeries for low-income residents.
“We’re all trying to do the same thing — and that is save animals,” Lawrence said.
What to Know:
– Call the Eastern Shore Regional Animal Control Facility at 757-787-7091, open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.
– The facility is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/esracf.melfa, including photos and information about animals.
– Adoption fee is $45 for dogs and $35 for cats, with agreement to spay or neuter within 30 days.
– The facility is seeking volunteers and welcomes donations of canned cat food, puppy and kitten chow, and chew toys. Volunteers must get rabies vaccinations to work at the facility.
What to do if you find a stray animal:
Contact the sheriff, who can dispatch an animal control officer. Northampton County, 757-678-0458; Accomack County, 757-787-1131.
To report a lost or found animal:
If you are not requesting the animal to be picked up, you can file a report directly with the Animal Control Facility at 757-787-7091. Call during open hours or make sure to leave your phone number and name on a message.
The SPCA spay/neuter program is described on the website, www.shorespca.com, along with applications for surgery.
Normal prices: Cat – $92; Male dog – $118; Female dog – $123
With proof of low-income status (Accomack residents only): Cat $47; Dog $60
Applicant must provide proof of rabies vaccination or there is a $10 charge for a rabies vaccination.