Florence animal shelter in need of volunteers

The hallways of the Florence Lauderdale Animal Shelter are lined with crates. Each holds an animal without any other home besides the bars they are held in and know no owner besides the shelter employees and the visitors who pass by. Some were surrendered to the county because their owner died or could no longer house them. Some were dropped off after being found on the side of the road; one can only imagine that they miss their families or wish they had ever had one to begin with. Behind the hallway are the kennels, all of which are filled with dogs. Outside, beyond the double-doors, sit many more outdoor dog kennels. The shelter is simply overrun by dogs, and with kitten season on the horizon, the numbers will only grow as the weather gets warmer. 

“We have the fewest cats that we have during the year right now. From here it’s just going to start picking up until it explodes with cats,” said Cheryl Jones, Director of Animal Control. 

FLAS currently houses roughly 140 dogs and between 25-45 cats at any given time, with new arrivals being brought in daily. 

The large influx of dogs is in part due to a seizure that was made from a dog-fighting ring in October 2022. The shelter took in 68 dogs , and they still have approximately 40 of them available for adoption. Individuals looking to adopt these dogs must be screened by an adoption counselor, because people in affiliation with the ring have made attempts to get them back. 

There are many ways that citizens of Florence of all ages can help out at FLAS. For those wishing to donate, the biggest need is for dog and cat treats. Because the animals stay in kennels for most of the day, they often grow bored and need encouragement or engagement.

Socialization is a skill needed by many of the younger animals, including the puppies and kittens who are born in-house. Oftentimes older cats who have perhaps been surrendered by an elderly person who passed away or had to go to assisted living care need socialization to adapt to being in the shelter. 

“Cats are the most stressed population at shelters,” Jones said. “It’s a horrible transition for them to come here, so they really could use someone to come in and sit down in the room with them and give them some attention.”

For fans of dogs, the shelter has a fenced area where the dogs can be taken out to run and play. Volunteers are needed to walk dogs on a daily basis, as well, and with over 100 dogs in-house, volunteers will never run out of furry friends to help. 

All adoptable dogs and cats are also available to be fostered. A foster takes the animal home to take care of for a few days or a few weeks to get it out of the shelter. Foster parents are able to adopt or return the animal when the foster period is over. Pet fostering saves lives by decreasing volume in shelters and preventing the spread of illness between animals. Fostering is extremely important for kittens and their high stress rates, because stressed kittens are prone to upper-respiratory infections. 

For college students or others who are unable to house animals where they are living, volunteer options are still available. The shelter gives out care packages to adopters or those fostering animals so that they have supplies. These packages can be assembled from home by volunteers and be brought back to the shelter so that they are ready to go when animals are sent home with prospective owners. 

For those who are creative, artistic and social media savvy, FLAS is always looking for volunteers to help craft social media posts and write bios for the animals. Social media engagement highly increases the possibility of an animal getting adopted, but creating posts is time consuming. 

Volunteers can also be trained as adoption counselors to deal with sensitive situations, such as the animals from the arrest and seizure. 

When it comes to adoption, certain dog breeds require a little extra TLC, as they naturally are more energetic and excited. Huskies and Shepherds tend to be higher maintenance. Animal Services also recommends crate training. For college students who are looking to adopt but have little time, Jones recommends they do not adopt a puppy.

“It’s like raising a little child,” Jones said. “They have to have a lot of time, and if you don’t have that… we can help match you with something that would fit where you are.”

No matter how people are willing to help, Jones encourages any bit of assistance the shelter can get. Potential volunteers can submit a form online and attend an orientation session. Those interested in fostering or adopting can visit FLAS Monday through Saturday from 11am to 5pm.