Shelter pets waiting for homes

Sunshine, one of the dogs being trained as part of a program through the Belmont Correctional Institution, is awaiting a home along with fellow dog, Crystal.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Animal Shelter has no shortage of dogs waiting for homes, including some cases in need of a heart big enough to take two dogs when a pair is inseparable.

Among the dogs housed in the animal shelter is a pair the shelter has taken to calling Bonnie and Clyde. They are an 8-year-old blind Labrador and a 6-year-old Dachshund who serves as the Lab’s “seeing eye dog.” Belmont County Dog Warden Lisa Williams said the two of them would make excellent pets.

“We’re looking for somebody who’s willing — they’re a bonded pair — to take both of them. He gets around. He seems to be healthy otherwise, but he is blind, but he does very well,” she said. “It just takes a special person.”

Meanwhile another older pair, Sunshine and Crystal, both estimated to be 9 years old, are in training as part of a program at the Belmont Correctional Institute, where they are taught basic commands. The pair have been lifelong companions and await a home to take them in.

Williams said there are close to 60 dogs at the shelter and an additional 10 being trained at the Belmont Correctional Institution. There are also close to 50 cats at the shelter.

This past summer, the shelter adopted a new policy of no longer accepting cats due to overcrowding and expenses. The staff is now concentrating on finding homes for those cats still housed there. The shelter is offering sale prices of $125 for the first and $62.50 for the second to people who would like to adopt two cats.

“We’ve got a lot of friendly cats. There’s a handful that doesn’t like to be picked up,” she said. “We have a lot of youngsters who are 4 to 6 months old.”

She added these were born after the shelter changed its policy and stopped taking cats.

“We’re just now getting caught up on the spays and neuters and the feline leukemia testing,” she said.

While the number of dogs at the shelter also is high, Williams said the single biggest issue is the number of pit bulls in need of homes.

“Our biggest issue with the dogs is the amount of pit bulls and pit mixes we have. We probably only adopt one of those out a week, and we have three years of pit bulls and pit mixes,” she said. “There’s one pit bull who’s been staying here for three years.”

She added that some dogs have been at the shelter for two years, and others for more than a year. Williams said close to 70 percent of the dogs in the shelter are pit bulls or pit bull mixes, with a total of about 39 representatives of the breed.

She said some of the pit bulls were seized during drug busts, while others were taken for humane reasons, but the majority are stray or abandoned animals.

“You can tell by their physical appearance and how they act that somebody has taken care of them, but for some reason they don’t come and get them,” she said, adding that the shelter makes an effort to return stray pets to their owners.

Williams asks anyone who is missing a dog to call the shelter rather than commenting on the shelter’s Facebook page.

“We don’t have time to go on Facebook and read everybody’s stuff,” she said. “They need to call the shelter. That’s the big thing. If something’s missing, we might have it.”

She added that the shelter is having fewer difficulties with other dog breeds.

“The other breeds of dogs we’re finding homes for fairly quickly. We’re using rescues. They’re helping us. The other breeds we’re getting out of here, but we still get pit bulls in, and our population of pit bulls is a problem,” Williams said. “We’re also kind of stringent with who gets a pit bull.”

Williams said another obstacle to pit bull adoption is the requirements for prospective owners.

“Most pit bulls don’t like cats,” she said, adding that most prospective owners have children, other dogs or cats. “Most of our pit bulls are good with people and kids. Some like other dogs, some don’t like other dogs at all.”

Williams added that the shelter also houses some older dogs in need of a home.

“We have a handful of older dogs,” she said, adding that Bonnie and Clyde are among them.

Williams said the shelter received a lot of community support during summer. She thanked all recent donors and the St. Clairsville Rural King store for hosting a pack-the-truck event to benefit the shelter.

Also, St. Clairsville’s recent Bark in the Park Halloween pet costume event invited the shelter to participate.

“The rec center people are fabulous, big supporters of the shelter,” she said. “It was nice to see Rural King behind us.”

She also thanked Eliza Stephens’ class at Barnesville Middle School for a food and supplies drive.

“I took a dog over and they asked questions about the shelter,” Williams said.

Also, Packers Orchard on U.S. 250 near Colerain invited the shelter to participate in a recent event.

“They let us bring dogs up so they could see them, because they had their fall festival,” she said. “Anybody who has donated to the shelter, the animals appreciate it, the staff appreciate it.”

Anyone who wishes to volunteer should call the shelter at 740-695-4708.