Guilford County Animal Shelter pairs dogs, owners

by Joe Murphy

It was a busy day at the Guilford County Animal Shelter last Saturday. But that’s a good thing, because it wasn’t always that way.

Sarah Fulcher has volunteered at the shelter for 15 years. In that time she has witnessed the shelter change tremendously. “No one used to come out here and it was sad, now it’s busy and happy,” says Fulcher.

The parking lot is full and the lobby bustles with people and their pets. Executive Director Marsha Williams greets me and leads me into a small office to talk.

“We’re about reuniting lost animals with their families and we have a very aggressive adoption program,” Williams says. “Our goal is to find every adopted animal a permanent home.” The Guilford County Animal Shelter is the only open-door shelter in the country. Williams explains that unlike other shelters, “We can’t just say that we’re full.” The opendoor policy is evident even in the tiny office where we sit that also houses a very young kitten and two salamanders.

Williams has worked at the shelter nine years — initially as volunteer coordinator and the last five as executive director — and in that time the shelter’s adoption rate has increased to 57 percent and recently petpoint. com (a part of Pet Health Inc.) ranked the shelter No. 1 in the state and No. 15 in the nation. The shelter’s funding primarily comes from the non-profit United Animal Coalition, but also is supplemented by the county and lots of donations of time, energy and money from volunteers.

Marilyn Green, president of United Animal Coalition, lauds Williams’ efforts and success in improving the shelter. “With [Williams] as director there have been many improvements in procedures, outreach programs and volunteerism. She certainly has improved all the aspects of the shelter,” says Green.

Fulcher, who began volunteering while she was working on her master’s degree and has kept coming back ever since, credits Williams not only for the shelter’s success, but also for creating a comfortable environment for everybody and a family-like atmosphere amongst the shelter’s staff and volunteers.

Najee Malik, who is charged with the undesirable task of cleaning the dog kennels, takes pride in maintaining a healthy environment for the dogs. “Everybody is passionate about their position and it is family atmosphere.”

The fruits of Malik, Williams, Fulcher and company’s labor is evident by a stroll through the kennels of dogs for adoption. All of the dogs’ cages have a laminated folder containing pertinent information and whether the dog has been or needs to be walked. Some of the cages have placards denoting dogs that have been sponsored by individual people, foundations or companies. The kennels are clean and odorless, and the dogs are quiet unless one of their brethren is taken out of its cage by a prospective owner and brought to the outdoor interaction area. As you pass the rows of dogs, the only ones that don’t meet your gaze expectantly are the ones who are asleep.

Fulcher attests to witnessing much worse conditions in other shelters stating: “You go to some [shelters] and you can’t even believe you’re in America.”

One of reason for the hive of activity at the shelter last Saturday was that last week dog and cat adoptions were half off the usual approximately $100 price. Anthony and Christina Daughtry were among the people who took advantage of the opportunity to add a member to their family.

“This shelter makes sure that [the dogs] are spayed, vaccinated and have all their shots,” says Anthony. “You go to a store and pay $1,000 for a purebreed and here it cost $55.” Along with their children, Thomas and Erin Ramos, they adopted a purebreed shih tzu named Molly.

The best way to contribute to the shelter is by adopting or volunteering, and under Williams that has become easier than ever through the shelter’s website, YouTube channel, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

“People can contribute time, energy, items and money so that they can be involved,” says UAC President Green.

By all accounts, contributing to the Guilford County Animal Shelter in any form is rewarding. Says Fulcher: “It’s exciting to come in here and help people adopt, for the adoptees and volunteers both.”

As I walked to my door and got out of everyone’s way, I just wished my apartment complex allowed dogs, so that I could have taken one home myself.

wanna go?

Guilford County Animal Shelter 4525 West Wendover Avenue Greensboro 27409 336.297.5020 e-mail: wanna learn more/ get involved: GCAnimalShelter on twitter and youtube. Guilford County Animal Shelter on facebook

Erin and Thomas Ramos with their new pure breed Shih Tzu, Molly. The children said they chose Molly because she was friendly with other dogs and responded to her name. (photo by Joe Murphy)