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Published November 14, 2013, 08:21 PM

Grand Forks animal shelter staff wants more room to improve animal care quality

As Arlette Moen walks down the row of kennels at the Circle of Friends Humane Society in Grand Forks, she plucks a treat from a bowl and offers it to the barking dog on the other side of each gate. The tenants of the space known as the big dog room has just a few of the more than 100 animals staying in the shelter.

By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald

As Arlette Moen walks down the row of kennels at the Circle of Friends Humane Society in Grand Forks, she plucks a treat from a bowl and offers it to the barking dog on the other side of each gate.

Some readily take it while others let it fall to the ground - not everyone is a fan of Milk-Bones. No matter what, each canine gets a "good girl" or "good boy" from Moen, the shelter's executive director.

The tenants of the space known as the big dog room has just a few of the more than 100 animals staying in the shelter.

"We're always full," Moen said as she walked from room to room Thursday. "We could build a shelter three times this size, and we'd still be full."

November is National Animal Shelter Awareness Month. It also represents a time of year that is especially trying for the shelter as it sees an influx of kittens, one of several spikes that sync with local cats' reproductive cycles, according to Moen.

The shelter is taking in fewer animals than it was 10 years ago, which allows it to keep animals longer in an effort to restore their health or bond with people.

That extra attention requires space - a commodity the shelter doesn't seem to have enough of these days.

Space needs

There are many new faces each week at Circle of Friends.

On Wednesday, the shelter took in 16 animals. Moen says the average weekly intake is 20 to 30 animals, with the year-end total hovering between 1,900 and 2,000 dogs, cats and other small animals.

About 84 percent of those animals are adopted.

A decade ago, the intake number was closer to 2,500 per year. Moen attributes part of the decrease to resources available now that weren't then such as social media sites and area rescue groups that help place animals.

Even with fewer animals coming in, the shelter's lack of space is still a concern for staff.

Having additional space for specific activities would benefit both the animals in the shelter and people visiting it, according to Moen.

For animals, more space could mean an indoor exercise area, more comfortable play areas and an overall increase in care quality.

One example of enhancing care quality is more isolation space for pets recovering from illnesses or mothers with newborns.

On Thursday, a dog named Dusty was recovering from leg surgery in one of the shelter's isolation rooms. Moen said things get tricky when more than one animal needs the space.

An area that would allow visiting vets to examine animals and perform sterilization surgeries also is on the shelter's wish list.

More room for people is a staff desire as well. A larger room capable of holding educational events for community members would allow staff to host events such as day camps and family days at the shelter.

These additional opportunities to educate people about pet owner responsibility could prevent more pets being given up in the future, according to Moen.

Animal intake

About 85 percent of animals brought to the shelter are strays and only 20 percent of them are claimed by owners.

The remaining pets are given up by their owners for a variety of reasons, according to Moen.

Those reasons include owners moving to a home that doesn't allow pets, developing health problems that leave them unable to take care of a pet or deciding they don't have time to care for a pet.

Another factor could be increasing veterinary costs. More stray animals are being brought in with untreated injuries such as old fractures, according to Moen, who added it wasn't a common occurrence 10 years ago.

"Just because they're strays doesn't mean they don't have owners," she said. "We just don't know who they're owners are."

Routine veterinary costs can run between $200 and $260 a year for dogs and about $160 for cats, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The bill for spaying or neutering a pet can run upward of $145. When added to food and other costs, the total first-year cost of a dog or cat can be more than $1,000.

Adoption special

To encourage more adoptions this month, Circle of Friends is offering reduced adoption fees for cats beginning today.

Cats that are spayed or neutered will cost $20 to adopt, while their unsterilized counterparts will be $10. The reduced fees will run until the end of the month, according to Moen.

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