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Animal shelter officer hopes changes will boost adoptions

New tricks

Posted: Sunday, September 17, 2006

 

  Patricia Stringer, the new chief animal control officer at the Kenai Animal Shelter, poses with Shep last week at the shelter. Shep is believed to be either a border collie or Australian shepherd mix, and is available for adoption. He was a stray brought in from off of Cohoe Loop Road. He's a sweet, well-manner dog who knows several commands such as sit and heal. He gets along good with other dogs, too. Photo by Joseph Robertia

Patricia Stringer, the new chief animal control officer at the Kenai Animal Shelter, poses with Shep last week at the shelter. Shep is believed to be either a border collie or Australian shepherd mix, and is available for adoption. He was a stray brought in from off of Cohoe Loop Road. He's a sweet, well-manner dog who knows several commands such as sit and heal. He gets along good with other dogs, too.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

While some in a new management position may be worrying about filling the shoes of the person they succeeded, Patricia Stringer’s new job may be more about looking where she steps.

Stringer, as of July 3, became the new chief animal control officer at the Kenai Animal Shelter, after the former chief, Bill Godek, retired and moved to Florida.

Some may be familiar with Stringer for her work with humans. She is a former program coordinator for the National Family Caregivers Support Program. In regard to animal care, Stringer is a member of the United Kingdom-based Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors and a past vice president of the Peninsula Animal League, a pet advocacy group that raises money for spay and neuter operations for people who can’t afford them.

She already has been implementing new ideas for the shelter.

One of the most noticeable changes is that the shelter is now open six days a week, Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Stringer said the shelter being open all day on Saturday, as opposed to a half day as it previously had been, will allow more people to peruse the numerous dogs, cats and occasional other animals available for adoption.

Stringer said she hopes the additional weekend hours can also be a time to work with children to teach them how to better care for pets.

“I’d like to start a ‘Canines For Kids’ program, where children — even those that don’t own a dog — can come to the shelter and learn tips,” she said.

These tips could include learning the fundamentals for teaching dogs basic obedience commands, as well as the proper ways to feed, play and exercise with a canine companion.

Stringer said she hopes to develop more programs to address behavioral issues with pets, since it is the primary reason people relinquish pets to the shelter.

“I want to teach people that behavioral problems can be altered, especially since nine times out of 10 the behavioral problem is on the part of the human,” she said.

Stringer said that, in her experience, many people with problem pets don’t understand they’re the ones doing something wrong.

“A lot of people, without even knowing it, will set dogs up to fail and they will fail. But often it’s something quite simple to fix, but until they fix it, the problem will keep happening. As my father use to say, ‘If you don’t give a dog a job, they’ll become self-employed,’” she said.

Stringer said she also hopes to work out a deal with the local canine kennel clubs to offer vouchers or discounts to people interested in training pets they’ve obtained from the shelter.

The shelter’s extra hours meant another staffer was needed. So, in addition to Stringer and Brett Reid, a full-time senior animal control officer, Kristina Peterson has been hired as a part-time animal control officer.

Adding an extra person will allow more social interaction with the animals in their care, which Stringer said is an extremely important aspect when considering how long an animal remains at the shelter before being euthanized.

“They have social needs that have to be met to stay healthy. Young animals, especially, can’t be here too long or they become institutionalized, depressed — basically stir crazy,” she said.

To address this concern, Stringer has implemented a program where dogs get to exercise their minds and legs. They are walked around town wearing specially made, bright-colored jackets that read “Kenai Animal Shelter” on one side and “Adopt Me” on the other.

Stringer said this gives the dogs stimulation and, equally as important, “It makes them visible. People can see them and know they’re for adoption.”

On the subject of seeing things, Stringer said another change she will implement will be more aggressive enforcement of the city ordinance that all dogs living within city limits have a license.

“All Kenai residents are supposed to have that license for their dog,” she said.

The fee for this license is $2 for pets that are spayed or neutered and $10 for those that are not.



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