The idea that all shelter dogs are bad is an idea that Chris Shaughness of the Chester County SPCA simply will not allow.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize what goes on here,” Shaughness said. “Most animals are surrendered here not because they’re bad. A lot of them are here because…of something that happened in the family.”
A move, divorce or death in the family often leads to an animal being turned over to the shelter, she said.
Another common misconception -- the CCSPCA euthanizes too many animals, Shaughness said.
But that is not the case thanks to Pennsylvania State Sen. Andy Dinniman, who brokered an agreement with the CCSPCA to improve the conditions at the shelter.
And the plan paid off.
In 2014, more cats were adopted, returned to their owner, or transferred to another agency than euthanized. This is the first time in the CCSPCA's history the live release rate for cats has been higher than the euthanasia rate, Shaughness said.
The shelter has also seen success so far this year in the live release rate for dogs -- a 20 percent increase so far compared to 2013, she added.
All of this is possible because of their renewed efforts to work with rescue groups, Shaughness said.
The all-access shelter takes in any animal with the exception of wildlife and livestock. Animals are never turned away, regardless of their health or age.
“We take in the animals who have no place to go when the other shelters close their doors,” Shaughness said.
Taking in troubled animals was made possible after the CCSPCA hired Dr. Michelle Mehalick as medical director in March and followed by the Muhly Clinic's opening in June. Since then, the shelter has been able to better treat injured animals and improve their chances of adoption.
Before the Muhly Clinic opened, the shelter would have to send animals to other organizations to get them spayed and neutered. With the in-house surgical suite now open, the CCSPCA has spayed or neutered all animals in the shelter prior to adoption -- a first for the organization.
But physical health is only one of the challenges the shelter faces.
“These dogs are young and have a lot of energy and sitting in a kennel all day is not good for them,” Shaughness said. “We need to give them more things to do.”
That’s why the CCSPCA contracted Philly Unleashed, a dog training organization in Philadelphia. Three times a week the group goes to the shelter and works with staff and volunteers to train the dogs waiting for adoption.
“They’re working with the dogs here in the shelter to train them to give them enrichment while they’re in the shelter and to make them more adoptable,” Shaughness said. “Every animal is given a chance."