Animal companions are a way for students to create a family away from home, and the Ames Animal Shelter allows them to find their perfect match.
“Students generally make really good adopters because there is almost always someone home,” said Abbey Weimann, animal control clerk at the Ames Animal Shelter. “The nice thing about a lot of college students is that most everyone has a roommate or two, so the pet is never left alone for more than a couple of hours.”
The Ames Animal Shelter is a “no-kill” shelter, where over 97 percent of animals are given a home or returned to their original owners rather than being euthanized.
“We believe no animal should ever be put to sleep for a lack of time, space, or resources,” according to the Ames Animal Shelter via the City of Ames website.
To be a no-kill shelter, the Ames Animal shelter works closely with rescue organizations to find homes for animals that can’t live in shelters to place them in foster care. They also provide a 24/7 lost-and-found pet reporting system through their website, so owners are able to find their missing companions.
“We are able to do what we do because of donors,” Weimann said. “People who support us and what we’re doing are the reason we are a no-kill shelter.”
Weimann encouraged those interested in rescuing animals to look into kill shelters and rescue animals that don’t have a fighting chance.
“If you’re worried about a shelter being a kill shelter, find out more information about them,” Weimann said. “Figure out what programs they have implemented and see what they are doing to make things better. If they are trying to move toward being a no-kill shelter, then you should absolutely support them.”
Adoption at the Ames Animal Shelter is dependent on their compatibility with the animal and availability at home. They house a range of animals, from cats and dogs to snakes and hamsters.
The shelter is able to take other types of animals, such as snakes, fish and exotic birds. Weimann stressed the importance of proper housing for reptiles and the complications that come with them, but they will accommodate for their needs to ensure they find a good home.
The average length of stay for dogs at the shelter before being placed in their new home is 4.26 days, according to Ron Edwards, animal control supervisor. Cats stay for an average of 15.87 days, rabbits stay for 37.47 days and other smaller animals last for 2.17 days.
The adoption process consists of a list of questions based on the prospective owner's current living situation and what they are looking for in a pet. Depending on the animal of interest, questions vary for their specific needs.
“Regardless of species, we always ask the most important question: ‘Do you want these to be indoor pets?’” Weimann said. “We don’t want our animals to be living outdoors. These are companion animals, and they are meant to be pets.”
If the match appears to be good, the prospective owner is given an adoption application. The application doesn’t commit the person to the animal but serves a pre-screening.
The application asks questions about declawed cats, time commitment to dogs and housing envisions for smaller animals such as rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs.
“For our little animals like rabbits and guinea pigs, we’re checking to make sure that what they have in mind for housing is appropriate,” Weimann said. “We don’t want rabbits living in small table-top cages meant for guinea pigs.”
The screening process also asks if the applicant plans on moving within the next year to get them thinking about if they can keep an animal, as well as what challenges they may have to face for the next part of their life.
“A lot of the younger generation will be bouncing around for a while,” Weimann said. “We want to get their wheels turning and have them figure out what they’re going to do in the event that they do move. [...] We need them to know that this is a long-term commitment and that they need to be looking for a place that allows pets before they sign a lease.”
The applicant is able to spend time with the animal at the shelter to see if they get along well and fit the animal’s personality well before officially deciding if they want to take the animal home.
When it comes to dogs, the shelter wants to see what the potential owner can do for a time commitment. Their commitment determines if they can own a puppy that needs lots of attention and training or if the applicant should consider an older dog that’s already experienced their hyper phase.
“We want to screen for all of these things to make sure we aren’t letting someone spend time and fall in love with an animal when it’s not a good match long-term,” Weimann said.
Every animal at the Ames Animal Shelter has their medical records checked before going home with their new owner to ensure there will not be any health issues right away. Those medical checks include microchipping, rabies vaccinations, deworming, spaying and neutering and flea treatment.
For long-term medical conditions — such as diabetes — the new owners are given the first few months worth of insulin to help get them started with the reoccurring medical fees. Owners adopting animals that require special diets for various conditions are sent with specific foods to get them started as well.
“We try to do everything we can to set people up for success,” Weimann said. “After a while, they have to take over, but we try to get them started on the best possible foot.”
The shelter has set adoption fees for each animal: dogs are $80, cats are $60, rabbits are $40 and most smaller animals are $10. Prices will vary if any of these animals have special needs or are exotic.
“We’re not out to make money off of these [adoption fees],” Weimann said. “It’s really just to help pay for the animal care and ensure that the owner is financially responsible and can care for the animal they take home.”
In the future, the Ames Animal Shelter hopes to move to a bigger facility so they can house more exotic species at a comfortable level. The moving process is in its early stages, and Weimann hopes to build spaces that accommodate to specific species’ needs.