A $78,000 grant to expand exercise space at Arlington Animal Services and improve photography and pet personality assessments has officials confident about improving their already healthy adoption rates.
The Arlington Tomorrow Foundation grant funded an expansion of the outside play area, adding agility equipment to provide more play and exercise for the dogs. Equally enjoyable for animals and employees were the included easy-cleaning artificial turf and two shade structures to fend off the Texas summer sun.
“Before, we just had gravel out there, and we didn’t have any shade,” said animal center manager Chris Huff. “So it would get really hot.”
The funds will also pay for converting a storage room into a photo studio and buying camera equipment and scenic backdrops to snap pictures of cats and small dogs to post on adoption websites. For pet assessments, which helps determine adoptability, grant funds were used to buy a video camera to record sessions, an animal harness and an artificial hand, wisely used to test how aggressively a dog protects its food.
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“Most of our animals are strays,” Huff said. So we’re just trying to find out as much as possible about them — have they been socialized, are they food-aggressive, do they like children?”
It’s not the first time Arlington Tomorrow has assisted the 19,900-square-foot shelter, which opened in 2009 at 1000 SE Green Oaks Blvd. Earlier grants include $125,000 to buy a 26-foot mobile adoption unit and $44,250 for a focused effort on providing vaccinations, microchips and spaying and neutering — all for the cost of a $7 pet license — in low-income areas within two targeted ZIP codes.
Also, a $50,000 grant purchased a radiograph, which works like an X-ray machine. It will be used to provide evidence for cases of cruelty to animals. Apart from the grant, the animal center’s current budget includes funds to hire an animal cruelty investigator, said Huff, calling the new program “CSI for animals.” The position hasn’t been filled.
The Arlington Tomorrow Foundation, funded by the city’s oil and gas lease revenues, doles out grants annually to a wide range of programs and activities, including parks, historic preservation, families in need, neighborhood safety, libraries and arts and culture. It has a soft spot for the animal shelter, which is a recurring category in the grant program.
“The board has been interested in addressing a broad range of issues in the community, including the welfare of the animal population in Arlington,” said Carolyn Mentesana, executive director of the foundation. The animal shelter staff, she added, “is already doing such a great job; the board hopes this will give them the ability to find more good matches between pets and local families.”
Last month the shelter recorded a live-release rate of 90 percent, which includes pets adopted, rescued and reclaimed by owners.
“That’s unheard of at a municipal animal shelter,” Huff said.
Apparently, it wasn’t a fluke, according to the performance measures. The live-release rate for the 2014 fiscal year was 80 percent, compared with 65 percent for 2013. Total intake dropped about 11 percent, to 9,209 animals, causing a similar dip in the adoption rate.
But animals placed with the shelter’s various animal partners jumped 55 percent, to 2,898 pets.
Huff expects the grant will further boost those numbers.
“It’s really going to help the animals as well as the staff and volunteers,” she said. “The grant is really going to play a role in this facility.”
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641