AWL maintains its ‘no kill’ designation despite pandemic

Shelter volunteer Sally Gooden, from left, Medical Coordinator Nickee Sillery and Animal Control Officer Kaitlin Meihls pause from their busy schedules Wednesday to show off some of the animals available for adoption at the Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County.
Shelter volunteer Sally Gooden, from left, Medical Coordinator Nickee Sillery and Animal Control Officer Kaitlin Meihls pause from their busy schedules Wednesday to show off some of the animals available for adoption at the Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County.
Nick Wilson/Journal Review
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Administrators and staff at the Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County have been working to make sure every healthy, domesticated animal that comes through their doors finds a home.

Medical Coordinator Nickee Sillery presented on the state of the shelter, and issues encountered, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at a Crawfordsville Rotary Club meeting Wednesday.

“By the time I started, it was about 60/40 ... but last year we hit 90% saved,” Sillery said. “I am so excited, when I pulled the numbers for this year, that we are at 93% now. That is huge, and it qualifies us as a ‘no kill’ shelter.”

The facility offers lower euthanasia rates when compared to most clinics, she added, noting the percentage could be even higher as many bring their aged or sick animals to the shelter to be put down out of necessity.

“Low-income families in our community can use us as a resource, so those numbers are included when we talk about euthanasia,” Sillery said. “A little old lady who has an 18-year-old chihuahua and she can’t spend $200 to have it put to sleep at the vet — that’s a service we offer.”

A no-kill shelter does not mean that animals are never euthanized at the facility. Instead, it follows the guidelines that “no healthy animal or adoptable pet is ever euthanized.”

With quarantine measures implemented by Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier this year in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, this designation has been more difficult to retain than in previous years.

“After a few weeks of being shut down, we had to deal with no adoptions,” Sillery said. “We started opening up a little bit, here and there, by appointment only. The shelter is usually open every afternoon to the public, but having a bunch of people there walking dogs — not a good idea.”

The shelter was able to stay open thanks to small business loans made available by federally-insured lenders. Through this funding, the shelter was able to avoid layoffs and reduced hours.

“There’s nearly 300 animals in our care, so that was very important to us that we were able to do our jobs,” Sillery said. “Trying to do what we need to do, with less people, is just impossible.”

Students of Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have also made a big impact on the shelter’s ability to function as normal.

“It has been incredible; we’ve had a number of veterinary students — who are now not in classes, they’re just sitting around — foster animals for us,” Sillery said.

This made all the difference for one “hard-to-adopt” dog which recently came to the shelter. A pitbull mix, the canine was heartworm-positive and had a number of mammary tumors, and likely would not survived its health battles if not for the foster care of Purdue students.

“Just yesterday, she needed to have emergency surgery,” Sillery said. “She’s being fostered by Purdue students, and they were able to use their resources and our resources ... and the dog is having surgery as we speak and is expected to make a full recovery. That’s not something that would happen, that chain of events, had a Purdue veterinary student not been the one who was fostering her. That was really neat for us to see — those kinds of connections happening.”

The annual Stroll for Strays event, where dozens of dogs and more than 50 cats are typically adopted, was also canceled earlier this year due to COVID-19.

However, this and other annual events will be attempted later in 2020. Announcements will be made on the shelter’s Facebook page — Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County Indiana — and the shelter’s website at www.mcawl.com.

For more information, contact the shelter at 765-362-8846.

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