SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Does Sarah McLachlan singing “In the Arms of an Angel” tug at your heartstrings?

If you are like most, you might have a soft spot for animals, particularly those in need. If that is you, there are plenty of opportunities for you to make a difference in an animal’s life through the Sylacauga Animal Shelter especially this Christmas.

The shelter was forced to close in November 2015 after the company which operated the facility decided to close it down. Months later, it was re-opened and is currently operated by the City of Sylacauga. Since the City took over in February, the shelter has seen more than 300 cats and 750 dogs come and go through the system. Many of those animals have been adopted locally, but not all of them. Sylacauga’s shelter partners with rescues across the United States and works hard to send the animals in its facility to places that can give them the best care and the best future.

Of course the no-kill shelter is important because it gives stray and lost animals a home. But it also works to prevent one of the City’s biggest problems according to Kennel Technician Connie Willette. “We have an over population of stray dogs in the city,” said Willette. “That’s why our main focus is on getting these animals fixed and off the street.”

Willette said 18 dogs have arrived pregnant and given birth at the shelter. Without the shelter, many of those dogs would be out and roaming in the community. Many of these puppies and their mothers are taken to the rescues that the shelter partners with.

Almost all of the animals brought to the shelter truly need its help.  Most are found hungry on the highway or found dumped, many times with puppies, in someone’s yard.

Willette told SylacaugaNews.com a majority of the animals are brought in by Animal Control. Once the dogs are delivered, there is a seven-day waiting period that allows the owners to come claim their pets. If no one comes forward during the seven-day period the animals become full property of the shelter and are able to be adopted by the public and even sent to other rescues across the country.

One of the best ways to help the shelter is to adopt an animal. The process is fairly simple.

People can come in and pick out any animal they like. Willette recommends people play with the animals, walk them, and see if they are compatible with each other. After an animal is decided upon, the shelter helps with all the paperwork and will even take care of the spaying and neutering.

Since the shelter re-opened in February, there have been many heart warming success stories. One of the stories features a dog named Itchy. Itchy arrived at the shelter in a box. He could not walk, and was hairless as a result of a severe case of mange.

Willette said Itchy became the shelter dog. Everyone fell in love with him the day he stepped foot into the shelter. He came and went as he pleased and was just a “great dog.” During his time at the shelter Itchy rehabbed, was treated for mange, and was eventually adopted in September by Rachel Cleveland who met and built a relationship with him while volunteering.

“It’s very heart warming and wonderful,” said Cleveland. “I almost cry when I think about what he went through and now he has made a complete turn around. It feels so good.”

Today, Itchy has the same great personality he had while he was at the shelter. Cleveland said the only thing that has changed is his name. Itchy now goes by Doward Ford Cleveland and enjoys being a part of the Cleveland family.

Doward Ford Cleveland, December, 2016

Like Rachel, the shelter needs volunteers to give their time in order to help the animals at the shelter. Willette said the shelter does not have a large staff and that there are not enough hours in a day to do everything that needs to be done.

Volunteers may not fall in love and adopt a dog like Itchy, but there are many different things they can do to make a difference. Volunteers can donate money, walk and spend time with pets, contribute to social media with pictures, and help with promotions.

“To know that we’re making a difference to the abandoned animals in our community is great,” said volunteer Terri Brooks. “It’s very rewarding when you see a family walk out with their new pet.”

Brooks is one of many who designates her time and energy to helping with animals at the shelter. She told SylacaugaNews.com the shelter would fail without the support of people in the community and she would like to see more people come out and support a great cause.

The shelter currently has 89 dogs and 21 cats that are available for adoption and looking for a loving family to take them. Willette encourages families to choose her shelter when looking for pets during the Christmas season. She said many of the animals there, like Itchy, have had a tough life and deserve owners who will treat them like family.

“They’re all special,” Willette said with a smile on her face. “These animals are so happy to see somebody, and they just make the best dogs.”

At various times throughout the year the shelter holds promotions allowing potential owners to adopt animals at discount prices. The average rate for a dog is around $100. Cats at the shelter can be adopted for $75.

For more information on the Sylacauga Animal Shelter call (256) 401-2590 or visit www.facebook.com/SylacaugaAnimalShelter/.

Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2016, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.