BCARL welcomed in

• County, rescue league teaming up for animal care

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Dogs at the Belmont County Animal Shelter await adoption as the shelter works with the Belmont County Animal Rescue League to benefit strays in the area.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County’s animal care and rescue organizations are looking forward to more cooperation for the common welfare of local residents’ four-footed friends.

The Belmont County Board of Commissioners signed a memorandum of understanding Wednesday between the county and the Belmont County Animal Rescue League to allow access to the shelter and determine what role BCARL may play in future operations. BCARL representatives will visit the shelter to observe its operations and speak about how the two organizations can best cooperate.

“I see this as both organizations, the county and BCARL, moving forward into the future and doing what we can to better the welfare of the animals,” Jennifer Woollard, director of BCARL, said. “I think any time you see a county shelter working with a nonprofit, you see they are able to market the animals a little differently. … I think we have an outside eye.

“Are they using the systems in place to the best of their ability to market animals?”

Commissioner J.P. Dutton said the board has been improving the efficiency of shelter operations. During the past year, the shelter has had to limit the acceptance of cats to humane cases. The employee policies have also been specified and in July the shelter director was eliminated with the dog warden taking on management.

“Last year, looking at our animal shelter, we had a situation that was going to need to be addressed at some point from a budget standpoint,” he said. “Our animal shelter was running at a pretty severe deficit, to the point where it was becoming an issue from a budget standpoint, and we knew that long-term, that was not a road that we could continue down.”

Dutton said they have considered how to address this while continuing to provide the best service possible for the animals. He said the commissioners have met with entities such as the Ohio Dog Warden Association and animal shelters in other counties.

“What we’ve seen is that in some of those counties where things are working fairly well, there’s usually one or two situations. One is that there’s a county-run dog shelter and another nonprofit in the county as another building. There’s basically two entities handling animal welfare. The county deals strictly by the Ohio Revised Code, while the nonprofit is sort of going above and beyond those responsibilities and meeting other needs.”

Dutton said the commissioners have reached out to county nonprofits to determine collaboration opportunities.

“We’re in a transition phase with our animal shelter. We feel that we’ve made some really great strides over the past six to nine months,” Dutton said.

“Our mission is to better the welfare of the animals,” Woollard said, adding that BCARL has hired a consultant to help look for options. She said the memorandum of understanding was a valuable first step. “We’re going to have some hands-on work with the shelter and see where we can go from here. We’re hoping it works well with our other programming.”

Woollard said BCARL has an office but does not have a space to house animals.

“The first phase of this is investigative and working with the shelter to see what we can do, within our means, to help the shelter and the county run the facility they have, and see if we can work together to maybe combine some animals into one facility, or have two facilities.”

The shelter has limited the intake of cats due to the high population. Woollard said there are programs in the county that work with cats and house them with foster families, but those populations are limited. She said one of BCARL’s services is spaying and neutering, including a trap, neuter and release program for strays.

“We are very busy with that. We are so busy to the point where we can’t get any vet appointments,” Woollard said, adding that they are also educating the public to try to have any stray cats they might be feeding around their homes spayed or neutered before they reproduce.

“It is limited. There’s only so much these programs can take on,” Woollard said.

She added that BCARL has increased its spaying and neutering events. This year, there are four events scheduled, with the spaying or neutering of cats for about $40.

Belmont County Dog Warden Nancy Williams said she is hopeful for the collaboration, adding that all help is welcome.

“If they can help us out, help the animals of the county out, especially with our cats, that would be a good thing,” she said. “It’s all a work in progress. We’ll see what they can help us with. What resources they have.”

In addition, Woollard noted that the upcoming Comcast Cares Day community service project has selected BCARL. The event will be held April 21 at the shelter and will include cleaning, replacing kennels and other work, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For questions related to the spay/neuter program, call 740-296-8644 or e-mail bcarlweb@gmail.com

The shelter can be reached at 740-695-4708.