By Kristie Bulger
“Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.”-Colette
After N3 paid a visit or two to our local Animal Shelter for an article we came away impressed by the caring and competent culture to be found there. From that experience we thought it might be a good idea to share some ‘stories from the front’ with our readers.
Kristie Bulger is a long time volunteer with the Newaygo County Animal Shelter and fierce advocate for our furry friends, and agreed to provide some historical reference.
When Ken DeLaat asked if I’d be interested in doing a piece about the shelter, I jumped at the chance to get our shelter animals more exposure. More exposure equals more adoptions. But slowly a dim lightbulb went on and reality set in…..I’m no journalist. So bear with me.
I thought it might be best to begin with a brief history of the shelter. I think it’s important to see where we started from and where we are now. Some people remember the shelter as the awful place it used to be rather than the wonderful place it has become.
When I started to volunteer at the shelter 27 years ago, it was a hellhole. There’s no other way to say it. It was a hellhole because of the sheer number of animals coming in, the rampant widespread disease, the cramped decrepit cages, the selling of dogs to research, the method of euthanization. There was a group of local citizens who were trying to make changes but it was difficult and slow. Arguably the loudest, most obstinate one of this group was Cheryl McCloud. The first time she was in the shelter was in 1980 and she waged a 20 year fight to improve the lives of the animals at our shelter.
In 2000, Cheryl helped persuade the county to hire Arlene Sterling. Arlene had been an ACO in South Africa and New Mexico and then a Cruelty Investigator for HSWM, for a total of 10 years. Newaygo County was very lucky to have someone with so much experience. It was the beginning of better days. The Sheriff’s Department hired Kevin Carr in 2006 as ACO and Jamie Wisley was hired in 2011 as kennel manager. The shelter began a transformation. The shelter went from a spay/neuter voucher adoption fee system to an adoption fee that includes spay/neuter. The new system means that before every animal leaves the shelter they are spayed/neutered and vaccinated for a low adoption fee. Because of this, the animal overpopulation in Newaygo County is a fraction of what it was just 10 years ago. All this happens through grants, donations and through working closely with our local veterinarians. Many changes have continued with new cages, painting, cleaning, a remodeled addition, an outdoor play area. The shelter staff, their spouses and volunteers worked their butts off.
In 2016 Arlene retired from animal control and Kevin easily, smoothly stepped into her position and Jamie Wisely was promoted to ACO. In 2017 NCAC hired Danielle Maike as the Adoption Coordinator. This was when our current team came together and is where the shelter is today. Chief Animal Control Officer Carr is a fair, firm enforcer of our laws. He has a quick wit and never ending optimism. On any given day, no matter how horrific the days events have been, Officer Carr will tell you he’s “living the dream”! Officer Wisley is a quiet soul and a fierce defender of all animals. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone handle a scared, distrustful dog better than Officer Wisley. The animals trust her quietness. And then there’s Danielle, our kennel manager, computer expert, adoption coordinator, customer service gal extraordinaire. Danielle has an uncanny knack for remembering lost dog posts from months ago….and then connecting the dogs with their distraught owners.
There is also an army of volunteers who are working behind the scenes. They do whatever is needed to help the shelter animals and staff. Transporting animals to the vet or to rescues, cleaning cages, exercising dogs, taming feral kittens, finding special grant funding….absolutely whatever is needed. In 2016 a couple of the volunteers started a Facebook page to help get more exposure for the animals. It is called Friends of Newaygo County Shelter and has grown to over 3,000 members/supporters who comment on, like and share posts. Here’s a link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/979050632140887. The people’s participation on this fb page helps our shelter animals get adopted more quickly.
So if it’s been a long time since you’ve set foot in our local county shelter, I invite you to stop by. I believe you’ll be very pleasantly surprised. And who knows? You just might find your new best friend there too!
The adoption fee for dogs is $90.
This fee includes spay/neuter, deworming, heartworm test, rabies & DHLLP shots, flea & tick treatment and license.
The adoption fee for cats is $65
This fee includes spay/neuter, rabies vaccine, feline distemper combo vaccine, FIV/FELV testing, deworming and flea/tick treatment.
Newaygo County Animal Shelter
78 N. Webster
White Cloud, MI 49349
Monday - Friday 11-1
Appointments welcome and available upon request
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