Ellingson: The benefits of pet adoption


Liz Zabel

A couple playfrul kittens melt hearts at Ames Animal Shelter. Felines are only kittens for 2 percent of their lifetime.

Caitlin Ellingson

Are you wanting to give a gift for the holidays that would leave a lasting impression? If you can provide the necessary care, time, and love, adopting a new pet from an animal shelter would be perfect.

The Ames Animal Shelter is a small place with a very devoted staff that cares for over 1,000 dogs, cats, wildlife, and various domesticated pets every year. Last year they took in approximately 1,120 animals total. They are a division of the Ames Police Department and in addition to their animal care services, they enforce regulations and ordinances regarding the control and treatment of animals in the city of Ames.

Many of the staff has been a part of the shelter for a long time. Lorna Lavender has been with the animal shelter for over two decades, where she started out as a volunteer and made her way up to her current title of supervisor.

Lavender said a common misconception is that giving pets as gifts is a terrible idea. But the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals did a study on the subject and in their research found that many people cherished a pet more if it was given as a gift.

Another misconception is that many people think owning a dog or cat while in college would be a bad idea, since students will be busy with school and have limited time and money to care for an animal. But through her experiences, Lavender has a different opinion on the subject. As long as someone can commit the time, money and love for an animal, she sees no reason why a college student shouldn’t be able to enjoy the companionship and happiness a pet can bring.

Lavender suggested, especially for new pet owners, buying an adult pet rather than a younger animal. Most adults would already be vetted and have more training overall, which is a lot easier on a new pet owner. In general, an older pet will be less expensive because they will mostly likely have many of their vaccinations and shots already done. A puppy or kitten (or any young animal) will probably still need those medical needs taken care of, so that increases the initial cost of owning a pet.

It is also important you spay or neuter your pet. Many of the unwanted animals received by shelters are a result of the irresponsibility of owners to do so, which causes a significant increase of stray animals (many of which continue to breed at an exponential rate). This is a primary reason why you see so many cats and kittens everywhere.

She also suggested you take the time to make sure a pet is the right decision for you and if you think it’s the right time for you to own a pet because it is a commitment and not something they’d want anyone to do impulsively. If you still want a pet after thinking everything through, stop by the shelter and check out the animals available. Make sure you have enough money to pay for a pet and all their expenses, which she says a good rule of thumb would be to allow for at least $30 per month (at least). You should also account for various visits to the veterinarian and make sure you could pay for treatment if something should arise.

The shelter gets financial support through taxpayer dollars provided by the Ames community, but they only take a mere $0.55 from each person per month. In the course of a year each person will pay approximately $6.60, and that money, along with much-appreciated donations, goes directly towards the care of the animals and supporting their programs. More specifically, the money is used for an animal control program and sheltering services, providing food and clean water for the animals, maintaining a clean and sanitary facility, hiring a quality staff with fantastic customer service skills, stray animal and rabies control, neglect and cruelty intervention and prevention, an excellent volunteer program, emergency animal response, humane education for the community, wildlife education and referrals, neighborhood complaint mediation, lost and found services, networking, animal ordinance enforcement for dangerous animals, and a more than 90 percent success rate for finding homes for healthy animals. For fewer than $7 a year, each person does a lot of good for many animals in the area.

If anyone is looking to help out the shelter, they can apply to be a volunteer. However, it’s quite competitive. On average they get around 200 applicants each year, and only accept 40 people. They would rather have a small number of quality volunteers than just a large quantity of volunteers. If anyone is interested they are accepting applications January through March, and if selected, you’ll undergo training from April to May. After that you’ll officially be a volunteer for the shelter.

The staff dedicates a lot of time to the shelter. On a weekly basis, they spend 66 hours of animal control “call ready” services, 35 hours cleaning the facility and animal care, two hours of after hour appointments, 20 hours of supervisory and assistance, they open the facility for 30 hours to the public, and an additional 18 hours of other responsibilities. In total, the shelter averages approximately 171 manpower hours each week. In the course of a year, the shelter averages 13,000 phone calls, 18,000 visitations and 2,540 field calls.

Because of the efforts of the staff and volunteers, as well as the support of the community, the Ames Animal Shelter proudly boasts an average adoption and reclaim rate of more than 90 percent for their animals. For dogs alone, that success rate is 97 percent.

The Ames Animal Shelter is located at 325 Billy Sunday Road on the southeast side of Ames and is open from noon to 4 p.m. Monday and Saturday and noon to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The phone number is 515-239-5530.

So, if you’re thinking about getting a new pet you should contact the shelter and check out the animals available for adoption. Each pet adopted is a life saved.