Charlotteans of the Year 2021: CMPD Animal Care and Control
Charlotte is constantly committed to adopting pets that need a home. It’s the team that saves them first
Ia world of doodles and yorkipoos, Charlotte is a haven for dog breeds easier to describe than to name: Scruffy Puppies. square head wigglebutts. Chonky Floofers. When people ask us what kind of dog wags at the end of our leashes, many of us proudly answer, “This is a rescue. “
Say what you want about our city’s lack of sentiment for the historic and our short attention span for the new. With animals, we’re rescuers, ready to go for the dogs and cats who need a second chance at a good life. A lot of this is due to the folks at Animal Care & Control.
They have a tough job looking after animals they’ll never keep. They created a brilliant solution: to create a community of softies like us ready to take care of them afterwards. In the spring of 2020, when COVID restrictions threatened to shut down adoptions from their shelter, on Byrum Drive near the airport, staff fought to keep them as a vital government service. When people’s attention shifted away from pandemic pets this year, they returned to homeless animals through promotions and adoption events.
It’s not normal, Charlotte. It is not normal for a southern municipal animal shelter to be called a no kill shelter. Even though AC&C, with its limited space and resources, must take care of all the stray and abandoned pets in the county, no matter their size, age, illness or injury, it still hit the mark. 90% savings last year which put them on par. with private rescue groups. The average savings rate for all shelters in North Carolina, both municipal and private, was 76%.
AC&C staff were named Charlotteans of the Year, for their hard work (ahem) and purring tactics (sorry) to ensure that Charlotte’s unofficial animal is the rescue pet .
This year won’t do the national animal rescue highlight reel. As adopters flooded animal shelters in 2020 to find pandemic furry friends, shelters faced a more difficult sale in 2021. Fewer people adopted pets. People made up for postponed vacations and returned to offices and classrooms. Best Friends Animal Society, a national nonprofit animal welfare organization, reports that pet adoptions declined by about 4% in 2021.
But Charlotte once again came to our aid. The number of pets adopted by AC&C, a division of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, has increased so far this year.
And don’t believe what you hear about people returning pandemic pets, says Melissa Knicely, AC&C communications manager, at least not here. The number of animals abandoned by their owners has actually decreased. Judging by the longer wait times for vets and groomers across town, anecdotal evidence points to pandemic animals being settled in their homes forever, healthy and freshly trimmed.
However, the backup rate decreases. As of this writing, it is September and the AC&C savings rate is hovering around 88%. Compared to last year, more stray cats and dogs fill the AC&C shelter. These animals may have escaped notice last year when more people stayed at home, or they may be the result of spaying and neutering clinics canceled during the 2020 shutdown. In a way, It’s good news. Most stray people start their best lives when they enter AC&C, where they receive walks and love, as well as food and vet care, from staff and volunteers.
Yet with only a limited number of tracks and cages available, more stray dogs bring new challenges. The tenacity of the staff in increasing animal adoptions and decreasing animal abandonment is matched by the creativity of their methods.
“We’re a diverse staff, which is a really good thing because we have a lot of different perspectives,” says Danielle Smith, animal trainer. “I don’t think there is anything better than a bunch of knowledgeinteresting people arguing over something they are passionate about to come up with the best idea.
Sometimes these ideas are silly, like the live broadcast of the “Summer Olympics” with adoptable dogs who participated in sports like looking for treats. Sometimes they’re serious, like winning grants to help people in financial difficulty keep their pets or giving seniors free adoptions and pet supplies. AC&C has donated insulated dog kennels to people who need help keeping their pets warm in cold weather; it offers veterinary services to parents of animals facing financial difficulties; and he created 13 microchip checkpoints – at vet offices, dog bars and groomers – to help lost pets get home faster.
This year, AC&C installed a free library outside its front door. Instead of sharing books, they invite the community to leave pet supplies and food to share with those in need. Perhaps, they hope, someone who comes to abandon a beloved pet will return home with their pet and the help of their neighbors. “One thing that’s really evident in the work Charlotte-Mecklenburg does is helping the humans behind the animals,” says Angela Rovetto, senior strategist at Best Friends Animal Society. “It’s about the human-animal bond. … It also increases people’s well-being.
Anyone who has rescued a pet understands the guilt of looking back at the animals that are still waiting for their new homes. If only we could save them all. However, most of us quickly focus on our furry family members and try not to think about those left behind.
However, it is the team that lives this mission every day, working with hundreds of dogs and cats who are waiting here at all times for new homes. They walk them, train them, give them medical care, promote it on live broadcasts and morning talk shows, then return these dogs and cats to their pens until someone comes. It can be a heartbreaking job.
Thanks to the folks at Animal Care & Control, we have our scruffy puppies, big-headed buttocks and chonky floofers, loved and spoiled like any pet should be. We say we saved them, but for thousands of animals every year, it was the team that saved them first.
Jen Tota McGivney is a Charlotte writer who has written for SUCCESS Review, Our State, and Live in the south. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter, @jen_mcgivney.
CHARLOTTEANS OF THE YEAR 2021
CMPD Animal Care and Control Staff
Dr Stéphanie Murphy
5th Street Group