Matthew Copeland spent Halloween morning getting to know Omar, a 7-month-old Australian Kelpie puppy who lapped at Copeland’s hands and sniffed around the spacious pen at a north Spokane PetSmart location.
“He’s a good-looking dog,” Copeland said, as the black-and-tan sheepdog lifted his paw in an effort to “shake.”
It is precisely this kind of one-on-one experience with ready-to-adopt pets the Spokane Humane Society was looking for when it partnered with retail chain PetSmart and its nonprofit, PetSmart Charities, to open an adoption center inside the store.
As of last week, more than 130 people had adopted an animal from the “Everyday Adoption Center” since its soft opening Sept. 16.
The adoption center allows the Spokane Humane Society to house an additional 38 dogs and cats inside PetSmart at 9950 N. Newport Highway, freeing up kennel room at the Humane Society’s other location in northeast Spokane.
Dave Richardson, executive director of the Humane Society, said the center allows potential adopters to see animals in a clean, comfortable retail setting that avoids negative associations some have with a shelter.
“There’s a stigma of going to ‘the pound,’ ” Richardson said. “But this, this is shiny and new, and it’s in a retail setting. It really gives people a chance to come in and take a look at the animals.”
The center, one of 17 across the country, is integrated into the store’s layout, with a pane of glass separating browsing customers from the pen where Copeland and Omar made their introductions. Cats can roam freely in a room designed just for them, the first of its kind among the Everyday Adoption Centers.
Kennels designed for larger breeds of dog, many of which were empty last week because of the spate of adoptions occurring during the center’s grand opening Oct. 26, will help the shelter accommodate the expected influx of canines as the Humane Society partners with Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, set to take over animal control within city limits next year.
“This is huge for us,” Richardson said.
The adoption center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
SpokAnimal, SCRAPS prepare for new roles
On Jan. 1, SCRAPS will assume responsibility for animal control within city limits as part of a deal lawmakers crafted earlier this year. The group, which has provided services in Spokane Valley and elsewhere out of a location on North Flora Road since 1976, is also preparing to move into new digs at a remodeled former motorcycle store in April.
“Construction has started on our new facility,” said Nancy Hill, executive director of SCRAPS. “That’s very exciting, to see us transform into a regional shelter.”
The group held a recruitment drive for applicants interested in one of the shelter’s 25 new jobs this summer. Hill said animal protection officers will be the first new hires to report for duty next month.
SpokAnimal, which will relinquish its duties as animal control agency within Spokane, is adapting to its new role of sterilizing and preparing animals for adoption.
“Our staff has been doing such a wonderful job,” said SpokAnimal Director Gail Mackie. The group has been transporting surrendered and impounded dogs from Seattle because of diligent work to adopt canines in Spokane, Mackie said.
Both Mackie and Hill said their biggest issue has been cats. This year has seen an unusually large number of rescued cats even into the colder fall months, when intake is usually lower. Hill said 53 percent of dogs at her shelter are picked up by the owner, but only 3 percent of cats, who are then either shipped elsewhere or adopted out to a new home.
“We need cat owners to become more responsible,” Hill said.
Local rescue teams up with Petfinder
Jamie McAtee started Rescue4All after years of volunteering with the Humane Society and seeing some dogs fall through the cracks.
“I love all the things that people are terrified of, that have a bad rap,” said McAtee, a former mortgage wholesaler who began working with animals after the real estate bust in 2008.
Rescue4All finds foster homes for pets, especially dogs, that have behavioral issues or diseases like mange that some pet owners don’t want to deal with, McAtee said. Earlier this month, the rescue began advertising dogs that have been cleared for adoption through Petfinder, a national website that allows potential owners to search for animals by location, breed and all sorts of traits. Rescue4All recently adopted four animals in a week, no small feat for an operation run under one roof, McAtee said.
Rescue4All has a Facebook page as well as a website, Rescue4All.org, which lists all pets available to adopt as well.