Virginia Beach Animal Care and Adoption Center sees increase in dog adoptions; focus shifts to cats

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This five-year-old cat's name is Eight Lives and is available for adoption at the Virginia Beach Animal Care & Adoption Center. (Justin Belichis/Southside Daily)
This five-year-old cat’s name is Eight Lives and is available for adoption at the Virginia Beach Animal Care & Adoption Center. (Justin Belichis/Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The city’s Animal Care and Adoption Center and Animal Enforcement Team moved into a new 38,000-square-foot facility in 2011, and has seen an increase in volunteers and dog adoptions, but it wants to focus on finding forever homes for its cats moving forward.

Deputy Chief Tony Zucaro and shelter manager Juleen Ballance presented the organizations’ five year milestones with city council Tuesday.

“It houses about 187 dogs and 137 cats, it has a full service adoption area, we have a surgical suite with a full-time vet … we have about 300 active adult volunteers that help us deliver our services to this shelter and our community,” Zucaro said.

Last year, the center was able to put 75 percent of animals it received back into the community. Animal care and adoption centers with a live release rate of more than 90 percent are considered “no kill” shelters.

“If we break it down by species, we’re at 92 percent for dogs and 55 percent [live release rate] for cats … that’s just for 2016,” Ballance said. “The cat rate has increased with the new shelter and that is our area of improvement moving forward.”

Rayna is about eight years old and is available for adoption. (Justin Belichis/Southside Daily)
Rayna is about eight years old and is available for adoption. (Justin Belichis/Southside Daily)

Looking at other regions, Virginia Beach’s live release number for cats seems low compared to Portsmouth Humane Society’s 73 percent release rate, but it takes in more than double the cats Portsmouth does.

Virginia Beach’s numbers are more comparable to Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center’s 52 percent release rate. Both Virginia Beach and Norfolk’s facilities took in more than 2,000 cats last year.

“Our challenge right now, is really with unsocialized cats that we take in,” Ballance explained. “Probably about 40 percent of that cats we take in are unsocialized or feral, and they’re not appropriate to put into homes.”

The organization plans to tackle the ethics of what’s appropriate for Virginia Beach in terms of these cats in conjunction with its animal control advisory board.

However, Virginia Beach’s 92 percent release rate for more than 3,000 dogs it took in last year is the highest regionally compared to Portsmouth Humane Society’s 89 percent release rate and Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center’s 74 percent release rate.

Animal control is the primary unit that brings animals to the shelter, which received 22,182 calls, investigated about 700 animal cruelty complaints and dealt with 37 charges of animal cruelty last year.

The building’s new aesthetic has helped the organization garner more volunteer hours since the program started 10 years ago at its old facility.

“Adult volunteers alone donated about 60,000 hours of volunteer service,” Ballance said. “The value of their service to us was about $1.4 million last year.”

A cat rests on a polka dot platform at the animal shelter. (Justin Belichis/Southside Daily)
A cat rests on a polka dot platform at the animal shelter. (Justin Belichis/Southside Daily)

This number almost doubled from 2015’s service hours number, which amounted to 33,000 volunteers hours worked. Last year did see a drop of 41 volunteers compared to last year, though. In 2016, the center had 325 adult and 137 youth volunteers.

The organization’s primary need is more staffing and has requested additional funding in its budget next year for new positions.

“Just to give you an idea, 7,000 animals, on average, annually pass through our doors and those animals are cared for by 10 full-time caretakers. That’s it,” Balance said. “Our volunteers really support those efforts, but there are duties that are really specific to staff … It’s been our most basic need for the past few years.”

Before the shelter’s new location, it existed on a 9,000-square-foot facility built in 1974 on Leroy Road, with a live release rate of about 65 percent for all of its species, according to the presentation.

“Over the years it became in disrepair, and it was hard for us to keep up with industry standards, which were really quickly evolving, particularly over the last decade,” Ballance said.

Ballance said the old shelter was in jeopardy of a non-compliance with the state’s veterinarian’s office and city council approved to fund the $11 million new shelter in 2010.

The new 39,000-square foot facility opened in December 2011 on Birdneck Road.

“When you walk in, it’s bright and it really says that we’re an adoption-friendly facility, which was the ultimate goal,” Ballance said.

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