Friday, July 29, 2011

Positive Changes at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington

After ten months on the job, I am happy to report some very positive changes that have taken place for the animals at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. First and foremost, euthanasias have decreased by 60% over the previous fiscal year. Our positive outcome rate for dogs has increased from 80% to 91%; for cats from 70% to 85%; and for small companion animals from 79% to 97%. Our fiscal year statistics are posted on our Web site.

We have successfully treated 21 cats for ringworm and found them new homes and have adopted 45 adult cats for no adoption fee. Free adoptions of adult cats have helped reduce the time adult cats stay in the shelter and have helped prevent overcrowding which leads to disease.

Although we have had many dogs with behavioral challenges, our adoptions team and volunteers have worked with them diligently on behavior modification and have given them extended periods of exercise to help them be more comfortable and relaxed in the shelter. Wonderful people have contributed their professional expertise in training and photography to help make all of our dogs more appealing to potential adopters. And as always our adoptions staff gives follow-up support to adopters whenever needed. We continue to develop positive relationships with local rescue groups. Our recently formed Pit Crew, consisting of shelter volunteers with a staff liaison, actively promotes a positive image of the breed to help raise our adoption of pit bulls.

Through a generous donation from two dedicated volunteers, we created a Very Important Pet (VIP) Lounge in our front office to bring attention to animals that have not gained attention from potential adopters. Dogs that do not show well in our kennel receive extra socialization and are seen in a more home-like environment in the Lounge. You may also sometimes find one of our bunnies enjoying the spacious play area in the VIP Lounge.

Our Trap-Neuter-Return program for helping community cats avoids the euthanasia of healthy cats while preventing an increase in the number of feral cats in our community. We hold information workshops regularly to educate residents on the program.

These positive changes have been a group effort among staff, volunteers, board members, and donors. Every one of you can surely take pride in the part you have played in these improvements. Thank you so much for your help and support. I hope you will continue to be a part of our work in the months ahead as we continue to strive toward giving every animal in our care the best possible experience and ultimately save more lives.


Neil Trent
Executive Director
Animal Welfare League of Arlington

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why Don't More Cats Wear Collars?

A recent study reported in Animal Sheltering Magazine (March/April 2011) cites an earlier study in Ohio in which only 17% of cat owners said their cats wear some form of visual identification and only 3% have microchips. No wonder it is so difficult to return lost cats to their owners!

The study also says that nationally only 2% of stray cats entering animal shelters are reunited with their owners. The League's record is much better: we reunite 19% of stray cats with owners. We would of course like to make that percentage much higher. The League microchips all our cats prior to adoption, and our adoption contract requires that adopters ensure that their cats always wear elastic safety collars and identification tags.

The focus of the study was to find out what percentage of pet cats would wear collars for six months and still have functioning microchips. 538 cats were microchipped and given collars. At the end of six months, 73% of cats were still wearing their collars and had functioning microchips. The study also found that owners who felt more positively about their cats wearing collars were more likely to have cats who succeeded in wearing them longer.

Many more lost cats could get back home if their owners were diligent about keeping collars with identification on them. Even indoor cats (all pet cats should be indoors) need to wear identification in case they get outside by accident. It happens all the time: we get calls almost daily about indoor cats that have accidentally gotten outside and are not wearing identification.

So cat lovers, please microchip your pet cats and make sure that they always wear elastic safety collars with identification.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Orange Kitten and the Ringworm Saga of 2010

This is the story of a little orange cat with a few patches of missing fur. She came to the shelter in July 2010 as a stray at about two months old. We named her Mia Bella. She had an upper respiratory infection and some fur loss in patches. We began treating her for her cold, and in early August a test confirmed that she had ringworm.

Ringworm is not caused by a worm. It is an infection of the skin caused by a fungus. Ringworm is contagious. It spreads when you have skin-to-skin contact with a person or animal that has it. It can also spread on things like towels and clothing. So we began weekly lime dips and systemic treatment with intraconazole. Then another cat came in with patchy fur loss, and another. Finally, we had 21 cats with confirmed ringworm that were all undergoing weekly dipping, weekly testing, and systemic treatment. The cats also had to be quarantined from all other animals and people. So we converted our cat sick bay room and previous dog receiving room into ringworm quarantine 1 and 2.

Animal care technicians have to wear protective clothing including hair and shoe covers to go in these rooms to clean and care for the quarantined cats. Of course, this is in addition to caring for the 60-80 other cats in the shelter. We also began completely stripping, cleaning, and disinfecting the rooms with a bleach solution once a week. Sometimes animal care staff came in late at night to disinfect after everyone else was gone. Even with precautions, a few staff members caught the fungus themselves. We also instituted some new cleaning protocols in our other cat areas to reduce the possibility of contamination.

After five months of treatment and a set-back with a serious jaw infection that required surgery, Mia Bella finally was healthy enough for adoption. She moved out of quarantine into our main cat room and was soon adopted into a loving home. To date, nine of our 21 quarantined cats have fully recovered and eight of those have been adopted. We expect to have a few more weeks of treatment before all the cats are ready for adoption and we can close the chapter on the ringworm saga of 2010.

Our animal care technicians have risked infection, bleach fume overload, and exhaustion to save these cats and make them healthy. Administrative staff have helped out with regular cleaning so that animal care technicians could focus on the extra cleaning that the ringworm requires. We all hope we never see ringworm again, but if and when we do, we certainly know how to handle it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

League Adoption Featured in novadog Magazine

Read about an adoption success story in the Spring 2010 issue of novadog magazine. Shadow came to the League in March 2009 because his owner could no longer care for him. He was five years old, thin, and had a chronic skin condition that caused patches of fur to fall out. After we shaved down his fur, began treating the skin condition, and neutered him, he became available for adoption. But few potential adopters took interest in him.

Finally, at the end of June 2009, an experienced chow chow owner saw Shadow on our Web site. She came in to meet him and fell in love with his mellow personality. Since July 2009 Shadow has enjoyed a stable and loving home.

Thanks to novadog for promoting shelter adoptions!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Parakeets Die From Kitchen Fumes

An adopter has sadly notified us that her four parakeets all died on a recent evening while she was cooking. She believes the fumes from a non-stick oven liner are to blame. Although she knew the danger of teflon-coated pans to birds, she did not realize that many other products contain the same "perfluorinated" chemicals (PTFE).

Some Common Sources of PTFE:

Non-stick pots, pans, and other cookware
Stain repellants
Space heaters and heat lamp covers
Non-stick irons and ironing board covers
Hair dryers
Non-stick oven drip pans and broiler pans
Non-stick griddles, woks, waffle makers, electric skillets, tortilla presses
Non-stick hot air corn poppers, coffee makers, bread makers
Non-stick slow cookers, roasters, pizza pans
Ceramic cooking stoves


While heartbroken over the deaths of her parakeets, she wants to warn others about this danger. See for more information.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

51 Spay Day Surgeries

Thanks to the generous support of donors to our Hantke Memorial Spay/Neuter Fund we have subsidized surgeries for 51 cats and dogs for Spay Day 2010. Low-income pet parents paid only $25 for the surgery and the Hantke Fund paid the remainder. The Washington Metropolitan Spay/Neuter Center and Fairfax Animal Hospital performed the surgeries at very low cost for us. We plan to do four more surgeries on Friday at Arlington Animal Hospital.

While Spay Day brings attention to the need for low-cost surgery in February each year, the League offers reduced cost spay and neuter year-round. The best way to solve the pet overpopulation problem is prevention!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cairn Terriers Get New Lives

In mid-December an owner brought in two older Cairn terriers (10 and 12 years old) and requested that they be humanely euthanized. Because they were older dogs and the family could no longer care for them, he thought euthanasia was the only choice. We noticed that although older, the dogs seemed in good condition. We explained that we would like to investigate the dogs’ health and possibly place them in an adoptive home, and he was glad for us to try.

Both dogs were slightly overweight, had matted coats, and had severe dental disease. After examinations by one of our volunteer visiting veterinarians, they went to a local animal hospital for blood tests and dental cleanings. Our Woody and Mickey Healthy Pet Fund provided the $600 needed for their treatment. A volunteer groomer gave them baths and new haircuts. They looked like different dogs!

After all their treatments, Skye and Brie went up for adoption as a bonded pair that needed to be adopted together. Probably because of their age, there wasn’t much adoption interest. Fortunately, the Cairn Rescue League, a national nonprofit based in New Hampshire, saw the dogs on Petfinder and contacted us. The rescue group found an available foster home in New Hampshire and even found a driver who would pick them up and take them to their new home.

Six weeks after arriving at the League, Skye and Brie left for their new lives in the northeast. Years ago this rescue probably would not have been possible. Our Healthy Pet Fund allows us to determine older pets’ health with diagnostic tests and to treat them for correctable problems. The growth of rescue groups devoted to specific breeds and types of animals often makes it possible to find homes even for animals with manageable medical or behavioral issues. Our adoption team has devoted a great deal of effort establishing relationships with rescue groups and will continue to work for the best outcome for every animal in our care.