“One way ticket to nowhere”.
“And end, not a beginning”.
When I asked my friends to tell me what comes to mind when they’re asked about local animal shelters, these are some of the responses. For decades, those descriptions were very close to the truth. However, our shelter, Duval County Animal Care and Protective Services, is working hard at changing those images and is, in large part, succeeding. Granted, ACPS isn’t changing perceptions on its own—it has MANY partners working in tandem (First Coast No More Homeless Pets, Jacksonville Humane Society, Friends of Jacksonville Animals, the many rescue groups and foster parents, etc). But, it sure is holding its own.
The current “shelter” location, opened in August 2009, breaks the mold of dark, scary, dingy, smelly, depressing shelters. The building/compound is bright with natural sunlight, open, colorful, and oddly enough, isn’t depressing. In fact, it’s not even called a shelter. The new name signifies exactly what its mission is: Animal Care and Protective Services. Each and every animal that enters the building is treated with concern and dignity—and most of them that come in (through intake) now leave alive. Every month, the numbers are improving. Last month, over 90% of the animals that came into the “shelter” left the doors alive—that’s a HUGE feat! Those few who were euthanized were due to severe behavioral or medical issues—or were so badly abused/neglected that putting the animal out of its misery was the humane thing to do. Compare this to the numbers five years ago: in 2007, of the 23,000 animals brought into the shelter, 19,400 were euthanized. When I heard those numbers my heart broke. Last year, THANKFULLY, of the 19,000 animals brought in, only 4,000 were euthanized. Everything that can possibly be done to find each animal a “furever” home is done—believe me. And it’s done on a shoestring budget.
In the past 2 years, our Animal Care and Protective Services has lost $2 million of a $5 million budget. They’ve lost 22 of 62 employees. Most companies, if they encounter those odds, would fold. But not OUR Animal Care and Protective Services. The dedicated people working there are spread incredibly thin, are overworked and underpaid, but wow—they sure are incredible people who truly care about each and every animal that come through the door. As one of my friends replied when I asked them about their perceptions of shelters, “the new digs has helped its reputation, AND the good people working there.” Ain’t that the truth?!
So, the next time someone asks you about our shelter, tell them it’s AMAZING! That it’s not the depressing, ominous place that people may think it is—with OUR help, Animal Care and Protective Services can continue on the path to our county’s/area’s goal: NO Kill. Let’s get to work!
Animal Care & Protective Services is located at 2020 Forest Street in the Riverside Area of Jacksonville, Florida.