HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - It was an event designed to bring together things most people love -- animals, children, and laughter.
Tuesday, August 12th, brought the premiere of a special adoption night that will be held each Tuesday night at Huntsville Animal Services (HAS). And now, this will happen every Tuesday at the shelter on Triana Boulevard.
It was also a money-saving approach by staff members who are trying any way they can to clear out the kennels and keep people with their pets.
When you visit HAS, you'll hear the sounds you might expect to hear at an animal shelter -- barking and begging. Things may seem back to normal at HAS, but the staff is working hard to make sure that creatures in kennels are the exception, not the norm.
"It really is life and death," said Dr. Karen Sheppard, the director of HAS.
She said witnessing the support from the community rushing to her rescue against an illness that spread through the facility three weeks ago is the high point of her 13-year-career.
"I need the public to come to my rescue every other week," said Sheppard. "Every week, at least once a month. It was amazing to watch so many people come through my building, our building and decide to be involved and save that pet's life."
She said 80 percent of those animals ended up with a permanent home or a commitment to find one.
Currently, there are about 58 dogs and 48 cats in the shelter -- mainly animals that have been abandoned in Madison County. And more are coming into the shelter.
"We found this little beagle boy running down Old Big Cove Road Saturday afternoon," said Angie Sullivan, a volunteer for Friends of Rescue. She had just come in with a dog on a leash to turn into HAS.
A new approach by the staff, as of this week, is there will be no charge to an owner if a dog that has an ID or microchip gets lost and ends up in animal control. That's a savings of about $100 in boarding and other fees.
Sullivan looked at the beagle mix and said, "He, apparently, is a lost dog. He's well-groomed. He stays in his kennel, he goes to his kennel, he walks well on leash."
HAS staff is getting more aggressive in questioning people who come to surrender their pets.
Sheppard had been taking care of a little black mix dog named Cupcake who had been given up after seven years with her owner. She said she hopes the community will continue to step in to prevent unnecessary euthanasia, indicating community involvement is critical.
"I need adopters, I need more foster homes," said Sheppard.
She is hopeful the special adoption events on Tuesdays from 2pm to 7pm will empty the kennels again.
Meanwhile, Sheppard added their quiet-but-effective program of trapping, neutering and releasing feral cats is working very well. HAS staff and partners released 60 cats back into the community last month.
UPDATE: Dr. Sheppard said the event was a total success! On a typical "good" day, HAS is able to orchestrate the adoptions of about 10 companion animals. Tuesday night, there were 28 adoptions and six other dogs and cats taken home by foster families. While the staff is celebrating the success, they also add there are now 62 cats and 76 dogs in the shelter waiting on forever homes. Dr. Sheppard insists lives can only be saved by the intervention and involvement of people in the community.