County animal shelters move toward a no-kill city

ENID, Okla. — Charlet Ringwald sat at her desk surrounded by a chorus of woofs, barks and arfs. She cleared her desktop to reveal a black-and-white cat with a teal collar and a bell around its neck. The door pushed open and a man came in asking about his mother’s dog that escaped.

“She’s a Great Pyrenees,” he said, “and about dumb and blind as can be.”

Ringwald laughed and looked through her files until she saw an animal control officer had picked up a Pyrenees a few days before.

The man came back from the back room where the dogs are kept in kennels with a smile on his face that said, “It’s her!”

That dog found her owner, but some dogs are not that lucky.

Bruno, a pitbull mix, has been at the animal shelter for more than a month. Enid Animal Control has not had to euthanize any animals because of a lack of space, but the threat is real. If the situation nears that reality, animal shelters such as FURever friends, Enid Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Old Paws Rescue Ranch take as many animals as they can feed.

These Garfield County animal shelters are moving toward a 90 percent save rate by 2025. 

Enid Animal Control has an 87 percent success rate for dogs and a 64 percent live release rate for cats, said Ringwald, animal control adoption and volunteer coordinator. The goal is to make Enid a no-kill city when the save rate reaches 90 percent. A live release rate, or a save rate, is the percent of adoptable animals that are not euthanized, but each shelter has a different definition for adoptable. 

“If you have a city that’s strong in animal welfare, people will move there. Employers will move there. It’s a win-win-win,” said Louisa McCune, executive director for the Kirkpatrick Foundation and former Enid resident.

Enid Animal Control partnered with Kirkpatrick, a nonprofit organization for animal safety, last month.

About 60,000 adoptable pets were euthanized in Oklahoma last year, said McCune. The Enid animal shelter will join Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Norman in pursuing a no-kill goal. The Oklahoma save rate is at 53 percent, according to the Kirkpatrick Foundation partner the Best Friends Animal Society.

McCune said she is concerned about the shelter’s cat release rate, but Ringwald said she has a plan.

“Ninety percent seems like such an out-there goal, but with our numbers it’s obtainable,” Ringwald said.

She thinks the problem will be making no-kill sustainable. First, Ringwald wants to create more awareness for adoptable cats. Then, she wants to create a trap, neuter and return program.

“After all the cat programs are full, it’s like then what do we do? Where do we go?” Ringwald asked.

A neutering program would allow wild cats to reduce their population naturally through sterilization. Ringwald said that eventually, the cats’ population would not be as overwhelming. She emphasized that nothing can change without the community’s support.

Kimberly Groon, vice president of FURever Friends, agreed with Ringwald. Groon said she thinks neutering cats and dogs will lower the overall population that ends up in kill-shelters.

“Seeing a broken down, awful looking dog and watching them get a sparkle in their eye like, 'Hey, somebody loves me,' makes it worth it,” Groon said. She fosters big dogs because she sees little dogs get adopted quicker than the larger breeds.

“People get tired of organizations asking for donations,” Robert Archer, owner of Old Paws Rescue Ranch, said. His organization takes care of old dogs likely to be euthanized. He said that $100 could feed his dogs for a month. Archer’s nonprofit is only six months old and has 25 dogs.

“If you go down to animal control and see a dog that is deaf and blind, that dog doesn’t have much of a chance of being adopted,” Archer said. He and his wife spend about 50 percent of their personal income taking care of their senior dogs.

“If 10,000 people decided to give $2 a month, that could be used to save more and more animals. It’s amazing what a small amount can do if a large amount of people would do it,” Enid SPCA shelter director Vickie Grantz said.

Ringwald is looking for volunteers for the summer. Volunteers must be 18 or older, pass a background check, have a current tetanus vaccination and be able to volunteer for at least three months. To get a volunteer application, go to www.enid.org and click on the Animal Control department. The application tab will pop up on the left side of the screen. Once the application is filled out, drop it off at Animal Control.

To donate to Old Paws Rescue Ranch, Enid SPCA and FURever Friends, visit their respective Facebook pages.

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Guevara is an intern reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. She can be reached at bguevara@enidnews.com.