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What to expect when visiting animal shelter

There exists an oasis on Liberty Road in Natchez — a place of refuge for lost, abandoned, neglected or abused animals, or, sadly, those which owners can no longer care for.

Each and every one is treated with compassion, and if necessary their wounds are treated and their scars are healed both physically and mentally.

Practically every day that the shelter is open to visitors a celebration takes place. Very little compares to the elation felt by the staff when a successful adoption ceremony is performed.

Often volunteers are fortunate to be able to witness the transformation begin in an animal that has found a home. Many hundreds of these celebrations have taken place over the years.

Because of the diligence and efforts of the staff, members of the Humane Society, and the community, we have one of the most successful shelters in the nation. Of course, there are certain things to expect when visiting the animal shelter with the hope of adopting an animal. Relating to dogs, many issues about individual animals can be detailed, such as testing for disease, approximate age, disposition toward other dogs and to a limited extent, past history. But there are other, more indirect characteristics that the shelter staff have no way of knowing.

The majority of the dogs housed at the shelter at any one time are brought in as strays or have been dropped off unceremoniously as unwanted. There is just no way of knowing whether an animal is “house trained,” an escape artist, aggressive toward chickens, has past vaccinations or health issues, primary breed or life expectancy.

A few dogs will be surrenders, in which circumstances won’t allow the owner/s to keep the pet. Many of these dogs will be of a specific breed, will have a medical chart from a veterinarian, will be of a precise age and expected size.

Most owners will be frank about their habits, such as whether they are good with kids or cats, or other dogs. Some things must be passed on with a grain of salt, such as whether they are “house broken,” tend to chew up shoes, or have separation anxiety.

Educated guesses can be offered through observation, such as interaction with other animals while at the shelter. Or whether an animal waits to defecate until they are taken out for a walk. Puppies are ready to be taken home and trained.

Felines do not present as difficult a situation. All adult cats that are brought in are sociable and suitable for adoption. Many are surrenders and are already spayed or neutered and have been vaccinated and have a veterinarian chart.

Kittens are never feral, are quarantined for a period, socialized, kept in perfect health, and are ready for adoption. There are a few things that are inherent with a cat. They keep their claws trimmed by scratching, expect it.

There are remedies for that, such as scratching toys or perches. They enter the world litter-box trained. By the time they leave the shelter this will have been well demonstrated. Most will shed. These things are far overshadowed by the joy, entertainment and affection that they provide.

Above all, the mission of the Humane Society and the staff at the shelter is to place all of the animals in good homes. Visitors are welcomed and encouraged to meet the animals, whether it be senior dog, puppy, cat or kitten as well as introduce other pets and kids to the potential pet.

The staff will be happy to introduce everyone to an animal of choice, perhaps to determine if it is comfortable with children, or see how well it interacts with other dogs. There may be an opportunity to foster an animal for a couple of days to ensure that it is a good fit.

In some cases, fees are refundable if an adoption doesn’t work out after a 48-hour period. Many of these things are stated on the adoption form, which potential adopters will be required to complete. This is for the benefit of both animals and people.

The shelter staff members are committed to helping place every animal that they house. But there are things that they cannot know about some of them. And the animals are looking for a home beyond the shelter. Part of bonding with an animal is getting to know it personally.

ROBERT GREENE is member of the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society.