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Shelter Programs Prove Successful in Decreasing Pet Overpopulation

October 12, 2012

Shelter Programs Prove Successful in Decreasing Pet Overpopulation

The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley in Hailey, Idaho, is starting to reap the rewards of its programs, including the No-Cost Community Spay/Neuter Clinics and Paws for Hunger pet food bank.  Now celebrating its 30th year of operation, the Animal Shelter used to be plagued by the same issues of dog and cat overpopulation that many other shelters continue to struggle with today.  The Shelter is now leveraging this success to increase its community impact and expand its outreach to under-served populations.

As the first animal shelter in the State of Idaho to adopt a “no-kill” policy, instead of the mass euthanasia of otherwise adoptable animals that is common elsewhere, the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley decided to focus on prevention.  Six years ago they hired a veterinarian and began offering free spay/neuter services for any Blaine County resident, in addition to the policy of spaying and neutering 100% of animals adopted through the shelter.  The Shelter now alters an average of 650 dogs and cats annually.

As a result of their spay/neuter programs, the Shelter is now seeing marked decreases in problems related to local pet overpopulation.  While there are still plenty of adoptable dogs and cats in the Shelter waiting for their forever homes, instead of constantly struggling with overcrowding and barely getting by, Shelter staff are now able to focus on training, enrichment, and other activities that improve the lives of the animals in their care and make them more adoptable.  According to Executive Director Dr. Jo-Anne Dixon, “While we still see seasonal influxes of kittens and puppies, we are now able to absorb them into our regular population, quickly get them vaccinated, altered, and adopted out into the community, resulting in a much better quality of life for all of our animals.”

According to the ASPCA, “The only method of population control that has demonstrated long-term efficacy in significantly reducing the number of animals entering animal shelters is the voluntary sterilization of owned pets.”  They also identify accessibility of services and cost as two of the primary barriers to people spaying and neutering their pets.  The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley has removed these barriers in their community through their free clinics.

In addition to the spay/neuter programs it offers, the Animal Shelter also partners with the Blaine County Hunger Coalition to offer a pet food bank, “Paws for Hunger.”  This partnership helps ensure that during times of financial crisis, people don’t have to choose between feeding their family and feeding their pets.  Formed when the recent economic downturn hit, Paws for Hunger has been instrumental in preventing a large influx of surrendered and abandoned animals coming to the Shelter from otherwise loving homes that can no longer afford to feed them.  Since it began in April 2009, over 25,000 pounds of dog and cat food have been distributed to pets in need, helping an average of 45 families per month keep their beloved animals.

The newest Shelter program expands their outreach to under-served populations in our County.  In August, Shelter staff organized an event at the Balmoral apartment complex in Hailey, offering free rabies shots, collars and identification tags to over 35 families and their pets.  Of the families who received services, many did not know about the Shelter’s spay/neuter clinics and were able to sign up that day to get their pets altered.  By expanding outreach programs like this, the Shelter is hoping to make even more progress in the fight against pet overpopulation, preventing companion animal homelessness at its source.

The success the Animal Shelter is seeing in preventing overcrowding in their facility enables the focus to be on the health and well-being of its animals in addition to its various community programs.  Its other programs include weekly animal visits to the Senior Center, providing valuable companionship to the elderly, and Hikin’ Buddies and Town Walks, giving the dogs socialization opportunities with potential adopters.  Dr. Dixon says, “We are proud to offer quality services that clearly make an impact on our community and its animal population, not just helping the animals, but increasing the quality of life for all of us by connecting people and animals in transformative ways.”

Click here to see a recent spot on KMVT on this issue with an interview from Executive Director Jo-Anne Dixon.

Summary Details About Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley:

The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley, the first “no kill” shelter in Idaho, promotes companion animal welfare by providing temporary shelter for homeless animals, adopting them to qualified homes and reducing animal abuse, neglect and overpopulation through community education and spay/neuter services.  Now celebrating its 30th year of operation, the Animal Shelter is funded almost entirely by private donations and grants.

In 2011, more than 1200 animals received vital services from the Shelter. This includes 390 animal adoptions, 259 lost animals reunited with their owners, 332 Blaine County pets spayed or neutered at our no-cost Spay/Neuter Clinic, and over 10,600 pounds of food distributed through our Paws for Hunger partnership with The Hunger Coalition.  

For more information call 208-788-4351, or visit our website at

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