Last week, the volunteers of Burke County Animal Services were celebrated during National Volunteers Week.
Kaitlin Settlemyre, director of animal services, discussed why volunteers are necessary for this organization and how they appreciate them.
“So volunteer week, we do appreciate all of our volunteers, even if they have only volunteered once or twice they have been helpful and impactful in some way,” Settlemyre said. “So we do celebrate them. This is a very hard profession, volunteer or working wise and you can face a little burnout, but when you can see the impact you’re making. I mean our volunteers, we could not do it without our volunteers, and you know in just four months alone we have saved over 463 lives, which has been absolutely incredible.
“If it wasn’t for these volunteers ... even people that just come in to help us clean so we can focus on creating outlets for these animals, that takes a load off of us. So we celebrate them in every way possible because we absolutely cannot do this alone.”
Animal Services relies on volunteers to keep the shelter running. They play a vital role in the organization, and there are many different responsibilities offered to volunteers who are willing to help.
“We currently have 25 consistent volunteers that come into the shelter,” Settlemyre said. “Whether they come in and clean one day a week or they help us transport animals around the county to vet offices to get health certificates to go on transport. There are basically different levels of volunteers, basically, wherever they feel comfortable.”
“We have people who may not be able to do heavy lifting, cleaning or walk the dogs that aren’t necessarily leash trained. Those people will sit up front, answer phone calls or do data entry. We have volunteers who help at adoption events, and we have recently added in some leadership roles to our volunteer programs. We are still currently looking for coordinators who want to be in more of a leadership role.”
It’s easy to become a volunteer with the agency.
“If somebody wants to volunteer here, you have to be at least 18 years of age,” Settlemyre said. “If you are not, we do have the ‘Dogs Day Out’ program. You have to be accompanied by someone who is 18 years of age, but it’s a way to get our younger groups in here to be able to volunteer.”
“So you can have your parent come in, check out a dog, go walking and take good pictures. So that’s what we do with our ‘Dogs Day Out.’ When you come in, we will make a copy of your drivers license, we get your phone number just in case we need to reach you while you’re out with our dog.”
Animal Services is always looking for more volunteers to help at the shelter. It is accepting applications. A background check is required.
The agency is a well-known animals organization throughout Burke County, and Lindsay Stump, animal services coordinator, said it plays a vital role to the animal population in the community.
“Animal Services exists for stray animals we take in off the street,” said Stump. “We try and reunite them with their owners, but if that’s not possible then they go up for adoption or are transferred to a rescue. We are pretty much full all the time with dogs and cats who have been roaming.”
“The Dogs Day Out program is a really great program to get the dogs out and moving around. We’ll put some adoption bandannas on them and really showcase them. That’s something as the weather warms up, we’re hoping a lot of people participate in to get outside, get on the greenway and just take one of our dogs for a walk.”
Animal Services also hosts adoption events, but they have been on hold due to COVID-19. They will be hosting their first adoption event for the year from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. This event will be a cat adoption event. The kittens will be 2-for-1; two kittens for one adoption fee of $90. All adult cats will be a $45 adoption fee.
There are many cats and dogs available for adoption at Animal Services.
For information about finding your forever friend, visit burkenc.org or call the shelter at 828-764-9588.
Sydni Hall is a staff writer and can be reached at 828-432-8907 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.