JOLIET – It was a matter of hours after a photo of Maize, an 11-month-old pit bull stray, appeared on Joliet Township Animal Control’s Facebook page that her soon-to-be owner arrived to adopt her.
That’s just one example of the ways officials at the center continue to meet – and exceed – adoption numbers this year. Officials also have begun aggressively networking with area facilities to offset overcrowding and make changes in the adoption process to ensure healthier pets.
“We’ve been working really hard,” said Sarah Gimbel, who was hired in 2010 as director at the facility.
After 601 adoptions in 2013, the center – which primarily serves Joliet, Rockdale and Crest Hill – is keeping pace and may exceed that total this year. There were 93 adoptions in January and 76 in February.
Gimbel said she used to consider monthly totals in the high 30s as successful.
Patty Taylor, assistant director and veterinarian tech, said much of the increase can be attributed to the center’s more aggressive networking with other animal shelters and control facilities, such as Chicago Animal Care & Control, Crawford County Humane Society, Calumet City Animal Control and Project Hope Humane Society of Metropolis to combat overcrowding at those facilities.
For example, the center took in several puppies, including a young yellow Labrador retriever named Veruca, last week from the overcrowded Crawford County Humane Society.
“These places have tons of dogs all the time,” Taylor said. “So this year, when we started to slow down and had the room, we reached out to all these organizations and pulled dogs. This is completely new. This helps them and also helps us because we’re able to have more of a selection when people come in.”
The center’s policy is to hold stray pets for one week before putting them up for adoption. But dogs and cats that arrive from other centers are put for adoption immediately after veterinarian techs conduct medical and temperamental testing.
When Gimbel was hired as director, she created a Facebook profile as one of her first priorities to help spread the word about fundraising efforts and available pets.
Before then, the center didn’t have a way to reach out to the community other than placing “Pet of the Week” advertisements in local newspapers and through the Joliet Township Newsletter, Taylor said.
In some cases, it only takes a matter of hours after a pet is posted on Facebook before a new owner comes in, Taylor said. People call the office every day asking about a pet they saw while scrolling through their Facebook newsfeeds, she said.
Adoption costs vary depending on age and whether the animal is a dog or cat.
Taylor, who joined the staff soon after Gimbel, was the driving forcing behind the center’s low-cast vaccination program.
“Previously, none of the dogs were getting vaccinated,” Taylor said. “Now, any pet that walks in the door gets their intake vaccines, deworming, a fecal exam to see if they’re healthy and if they need any other treatment, we go ahead and start that as well. They’ll also leave with a microchip.”
The center’s successful fundraising efforts during its “Dogs Need Sunshine” campaign last year led to the installation of an outdoor play area. In April, nine additional dog runs will be constructed, Joliet Township Supervisor Dan Vera said.
Officials at the center also are seeking a reliable volunteer who can coordinate and expand the center’s volunteer ranks responsible for dog walking, feeding and cleaning.
JTAC was established in the mid-1970s in response to growing concerns about wandering stray dogs in local schools and playgrounds. Vera said the facility has come a long way since then, including new staff and remodeling efforts inside and out.
The center also is responsible for picking up lost pets. When they do, they immediately begin checking for a collar, tags or microchip that can reunite a pet with its owner.
If that’s not the case, Taylor said, the center has no time limit for pets and will stay with the center as long as it takes. In some cases, unfortunately, dogs or cats deemed highly aggressive and tempermental while undergoing behavioral tests may be deemed unsafe for families and could be put to sleep, she said. But that rarely happens, she said.
“Sometimes we have to make that medical decision,” she said. “But before we do that, we reach out to rescue organizations and exhaust all our options.”
For information about the center or adoptable pets, call 815-725-0333 or visit the center at 2807 McDonough St. in Joliet between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.