By Todd Cohen
DURHAM, N.C. — On a typical day, the Durham County Animal Shelter is home to up to 300 dogs, cats and other animals.
“Six thousand pass through the shelter every year or that we serve through a safety-net program for people who cannot afford to keep animals in their home,” says Shafonda Davis, executive director of the Animal Protection Society of Durham, which has a contract to manage the county-owned facility.
The number of animals the shelter handles each year actually is down from nearly 9,000 in 2008 as a result of efforts by the Society to raise awareness of the need to adopt, spay and neuter cats and dogs, although the need for better care of animals remains “huge,” Davis says.
Founded in 1970, the Society operates with an annual budget of $1.5 million, a staff of 23 full-time employees and 370 active volunteers.
Its generates about half its funds from earned income, including nearly $619,000 from the county, plus fees for adoption, flea-and-tick prevention, microchips implanted in animals to keep track of them, and cat carriers.
It generates the remaining half of its funds from contributions, mainly from individuals and events that include a walk in May, a gala in November and an annual fund that raise a total of about $750,000.
Under the Society’s contract with the county, the Shelter is an “open-admission” facility that accepts every animal.
Animals remain the shelter until they find a home or are severely injured or ill. It provides spaying and neutering, medical care and adoption services and euthanasia.
In 2016, the Society euthanized nearly 2,400 animals, mainly for medical reasons and serious aggression.
“We offer euthanasia as a free service because we don’t believe any animal should suffer and die in pain,” Davis says. “A lot of people can’t afford that,”
The Society also handled the adoption of nearly 1,900 animals and returned nearly 700 lost animals to their homes.
For lost animals returned to their homes, the Society provides free microchips and name tags so they can be tracked and identified, and offers free or discounted spaying or neutering.
To raise awareness about animal protection, the Society holds about 20 community events throughout the year, as well as tours of the facility that attract a total of about 200 visitors.
Once a month, it takes adoptable dogs from the shelter to meet patrons at Beer Durham, a local brewery. One Sunday a month, it takes animals to Oliver’s Collar, a dog-treat bakery and boutique. Every Monday, Macy’s at Southpoint Mall hosts animals from the shelter. And once a month the Society brings cats from the shelter to The Regulator bookstore.
The Society also participates in events like Festival of the Eno. And Davis talks about animals to students in schools and university settings, including the College of Veterinary Medicine at N.C. State University.
Raising awareness about animal protection is critical, says Davis, a Durham native who says she knew at age four she wanted “to spend every waking hour” with animals.”We try to incorporate education with everything we do,” she says.