Midtown Raleigh News

Local animal shelters face challenges during the holidays

A volunteer veterinarian at the SPCA of Wake County checks on Pepper, a hound mix that is being treated for heartworms. Like many shelters, the SPCA of Wake County has a great need at the end of the year.
A volunteer veterinarian at the SPCA of Wake County checks on Pepper, a hound mix that is being treated for heartworms. Like many shelters, the SPCA of Wake County has a great need at the end of the year. mhankerson@newsobserver.com

The staff at the SPCA of Wake County hope Pepper, a 2-year-old hound mix, will be the last dog in need of heartworm treatments this year.

At the Wake County Animal Shelter, workers are preparing to spend part of their holiday visiting pets who don’t yet have families of their own.

And SAFE Haven for Cats hopes to help at least 40 cats find permanent homes by the first week of January.

Animal shelters and nonprofit rescue groups face unique challenges at the end of the year, including dwindling budgets, fewer available volunteers and a final push to make room for more animals.

For groups that rely heavily on private donations, raising money by the end of December is key. The SPCA of Wake County hopes to raise $3,000 by Jan. 1.

The SPCA, which deals with more than 3,000 local animals a year, has seen an unusual uptick in the number of dogs in need of heartworm treatment. So far this year, 45 dogs have needed treatment, said Mondy Lamb, director of development for the nonprofit.

The group budgeted $5,000 for heartworm treatments, but it will need closer to $9,000, Lamb said.

“Our speculation is that because the weather is staying warmer longer, the mosquitoes that transmit the deadly heartworm disease aren’t dying off in the cold winter months,” Darci VanderSlik, a spokeswoman for the SPCA of Wake County, said in an email.

Lamb said other emergency medical costs at the shelter, like amputations and surgeries, have also nearly doubled this year. The group budgets roughly $450,000 for pets’ medical needs and professional care.

SAFE Haven for Cats, a nonprofit based in North Raleigh, has dealt with having fewer volunteers and supplies.

“It’s been a really challenging year for the number of pets we have,” said Gina Jennings, volunteer coordinator at SAFE Haven.

The group took in 34 cats from a hoarding case over the summer, and many of those cats required specialists that put a big strain on the organization’s medical budget, said SAFE Haven director Pam Miller.

At the Wake County Animal Shelter, which is funded by the county government, supplies are at appropriate levels, said director Jennifer Federico. But volunteering can sometimes fall short, so Federico and a handful of others fill in the gaps.

Some volunteers come in during holidays to distribute special treats and toys to the animals.

“It’s a holiday for them too,” Federico said.

The focus now is getting as many pets as possible adopted to permanent families. The same is true for SAFE Haven, which plans to launch an adoption event.

“The big thing we need is adopters,” Federico said. “We want these animals to go home for the holidays.”

Dogs can be especially helpful when people begin thinking about New Year’s resolutions, Federico said.

“We have great gym partners that are always committed,” she said.

Mechelle Hankerson: 919-829-4802, @mechelleh

How to help

To donate or volunteer at the Wake County Animal Shelter, go to www.wakegov.com/pets.

For volunteer information for the SPCA of Wake County, go to www.spcawake.org. Donations can be dropped off at any time at the shelter, located at 200 Petfinder Lane, Raleigh.

To donate or volunteer at SAFE Haven for Cats, go to www.safehavenforcats.org or call 919-500-5276.

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