When Jody Maddock first learned about Adopt-A-Pet Fenton, it was in a tiny 1,200-square foot house. In fact, the shelter operated in that location for 25 years, from the time it was founded, in 1977. The house had no yard so the shelter could only take in cats; dogs were fostered by volunteers. There were no paid staff and few office processes in place.
Now, 17 years later, Adopt-A-Pet has a 5,500-square foot state-of-the-art facility on almost nine acres of land. It has had 11 staff members for five years, including two veterinarians and an on-site surgical suite. Maddock has been the shelter’s program director for nine years. Not only did she have the pleasure of watching the organization grow, she was also an integral part of the vision and planning. Starting out as a foster family, Maddock recognized a need and volunteered to help with bookkeeping and volunteer training.
Along with staff, Adopt-A-Pet Fenton relies more than 100 passionate and giving volunteers to help take care of animals, raise funds, organize events and place more than 1,000 animals in homes each year for the last three years. “Some of our volunteers, called cuddlers and sitters, come in to socialize the timid animals. An animal might be shut down at first. Then you watch it come out of its shell and gain confidence. It’s a rewarding and heart-warming experience, literally seeing the difference our volunteers make,” said Maddock.
Adopt-A-Pet operates differently than other shelters in a few ways. Maddock said, “Every staff member is cross-trained. That means they not only do their regular job tasks, such as cleaning, but each person can also give tours, do minor medical procedures, report on an animal’s well-being, and serve as adoption counselors.” The Fenton shelter also has a hands-on board of directors who work well together and have created multi-functional positions. “Part of our strategy is to be licensed; we undergo inspections and are regularly monitored which ensures we do everything for the animals properly,” explains Maddock.
“We can now shelter 50 cats and 14 to 20 dogs, depending on their size,” says Maddock, who still fosters animals and also acts as treasurer for the board. While they only have room for so many, they still have more than 20 foster homes in their system.
Another unique element to Adopt-A-Pet Fenton is its K-9 Enrichment program, an intentional focus on the mental well-being of the dogs in its care. For example, each dog eats out of a puzzle bowl to make it think. The shelter also diffuses scents and holds mini training sessions with activities to engage and stimulate the canines. “Mental well-being is a movement now,” says Maddock, “but it has been one of our priorities for the last 10 years. Since we are a smaller organization, we have the ability to do these kinds of things, though it is critical to have volunteers to implement this program. We are seeing a very positive physical impact on the stress levels of our dogs.”
One way this shelter stands out is by having a surgical suite on site. “It’s a huge financial savings being able to do surgeries ourselves,” Maddock says. “We’ve saved so much money we can do more to help animals.” The surgical suite allows Adopt-A-Pet to employ trained people who can assess cases and its medical service is now open to area rescue groups. “We have become known in the region for taking on the challenging cases,” shares Maddock. “Area vets contact us about injuries and treatments that owners cannot afford. We are pleased to be able to help, however, that also means we need more donations.”
For more information visit www.adoptapetfenton.com.