After recently celebrating 10 years of saving pets, Sierra’s Haven for New and Used Pets hosted an Open House even on Oct. 15.
Throughout the years, the organization has worked tirelessly to rescue and re-home animals in the area.
Located at 80 Easter Drive in Portsmouth, the shelter was founded in 2006 after Dr. Gail Counts brother passed away unexpectedly at age 42, leaving behind his cat Sierra. Counts is a veterinarian and the founder of Shawnee Animal Clinic, it was always her goal to open a shelter facility, but after her brother’s passing, she felt moved to act on her conviction.
“We’ve always had a problem with stray animals in the area,” explained Counts. “The pound is always overcrowded and the humane society that was in the county has pretty much dissolved. When my brother passed, that’s when I really got serious. I had always wanted to open a shelter, primarily for cats, because at the time, there was no place for cats to go. Of course I also wanted to help the dogs, and provide a place where they wouldn’t be put to sleep.”
Counts and a team of animal-loving volunteers formed a board and set the plans into motion and through the support of the community and through grants, five years later, the shelter opened in September of 2006.
“We don’t have any help from any government agencies or the state,” explained Counts. “It all comes from community donations and support, fundraisers and grants. It costs us about $250,000 a year to run the facility.”
Through their efforts, over 10,000 dogs and cats have been adopted over the last 10 years. In 2016 alone, there have been 786 dogs adopted and 409 cats.
Throughout the years, the shelter has expanded services and improved its facilities to accommodate for more animals and better care.
“The room that is now our lobby cat room, used to be our store room, we used to have T-shirts and leashes and things like that in it, but we decided to turn it into a cat room.” said long-time volunteer, Connie Weaver. Weaver has been dedicating her time at the shelter since it’s opening in 2006. “I’ve been here since we built the shelter. I helped paint the walls and stuff. It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing that Dr. Counts does for Scioto County, well for the animals. It’s all about the animals.”
Pets from Sierra’s Haven are provided with full medical care before going to their new homes. Adoption fees allow the shelter to continue their work and vary by age and type of animal. Dogs are $75, and puppies are $175, while cats and kittens are $50. Each pet is up-to-date on vaccinations, and each pet is spayed or neutered to cut back on the increase of unwanted pets in the area.
“We’re also a part of several other programs here,” said Counts. “On my day off, I come up and do surgeries for a low-cost spay and neuter clinic for community members. We do it once a month, and we always put our flyer out on our website and our Facebook page to announce sign-ups. We’re also part of the Rescue Waggin program. There are a lot of cities with very stringent pet laws, and sometimes those shelters don’t have enough pets. The animals are assessed here, and if they pass, they’re eligible for Rescue Waggin, and they come and pick them up and transport them to other shelters. They’re usually adopted out in one or two days. But they only take dogs.”
Counts and other volunteers, wish this was the case for the other animals in the shelter. Overcrowding is a problem that they try to avoid, but is often inevitable.
“Because we’re funded through grants, we can’t take every animal, we have guidelines and rules that we have to follow according to National Shelter Guidelines. People often get mad at us because they’ll call in and we often have to tell them no, unless it’s an extreme life-threatening circumstance,” Counts explained. “For example, we’re really only supposed to have 90-100 cats, and we usually have about 160. It’s hard for us to move cats and get them into new homes. We do have a program through PetSmart in Ashland, they take some of our kittens and cats and adopt them out through their stores.”
The organization is fully manned on a volunteer bases, and is always seeking new volunteers to come and assist.
“People think that being a volunteer means we’re just going to have you come up here and clean,” said Counts. “But that’s not true at all. While we appreciate the people who do come up and clean, we also need people to just spend time with the animals, to get the dogs out and exercise them and socialize them. And we need people to come and pet the cats and spend time with them too, they love attention.”
To become a volunteer with organization, Counts says you just have to come in and sign up.
Sierra’s Haven is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. unitl 4 p.m. A list of adoptable pets is available on their website, along with items to consider for donation if you can’t adopt.
For more information about Sierra’s Haven for New and Used Pets, please visit www.sierrashaven.org or Facebook “Sierra’s Haven for New and Used Pets.”
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.