Shelter or Dog Pound?

August 10, 2023

The Hazel Y Clark Patrick County Public Animal Shelter is tucked away beside a creek just before you get to the waste transfer station in Stuart, Virginia. The shelter began in 2002. Prior to that, it was run out of a local vet’s office.

The building looks new, and it’s in a lovely quiet spot (although given its proximity to the creek it’s probably in a flood plane). Outfront, besides the Animal Control truck, there was a school bus. Inside, we were greeted by Vickie who is the part-time animal shelter attendant and also a school bus driver. She loves her job, which she does in between her two school runs.

Vickie is a friendly soul who clearly loves the animals. Nyla, a shy young dog, was sitting beside her behind her desk, sneaking peeks at us as Vickie cooed to her. Vickie is working on her confidence and helping her become more comfortable with people.

It was a Friday, so Wanda, the deputy Animal Control officer (and Vickie’s boss) was off and we weren’t able to speak with her. Vickie has only been working at the shelter since last April, so she wasn’t certain of the history at the shelter, but their website says, “The shelter provides temporary care for homeless or unwanted animals until they are adopted, placed with an animal shelter organization or euthanized.”

Since she’s been here, Vickie says there seem to be about an equal number of adoptions and rescue transfers. Like many public open intake shelters, Patrick County has seen an increase in owner surrenders of late.

The dog area inside looks like an old-school dog pound – eight small, dark narrow cement kennels in a row facing each other. When the kennels are cleaned by inmates, the dogs are placed outside in a covered cement playyard.

We met the six dogs in residence. It was surprisingly quiet in the kennels and all of the dogs we met were friendly and came to the front of their kennels for attention and treats. One of the dogs appeared to be pregnant and Vickie said they would find a rescue for her. They work a lot with a local cat rescue, Clover Cat Rescue, who also sometimes take their pregnant dogs.

The shelter is blessed to have an anonymous local donor who pays for all the spay and neuter surgeries for the shelter animals. The shelter has a very small budget for medical, so the animals do not receive their rabies or distemper shots until they are selected for adoption or rescue transfer and taken for their surgeries. If they have a serious medical case, they try to work with Augusta Dog Adoptions or Boyce-Holland Veterinary Services.

The public record shows that the budget for food and supplies is $500/year. The shelter depends on donations for food, and according to Vickie, the local community usually responds. Walmart and Tractor Supply donate damaged bags of food, and people sometimes come by with donations of bedding, food, and other supplies. In 2022, the shelter handled 339 dogs and 388 cats. It’s quite a feat to feed and care for that many animals on $500/year.

At the time of our visit, the shelter seemed to be holding its own, but like so many places, that hold is precarious. The shelter is not a no-kill shelter. In 2022, they euthanized 48 dogs, making their live release rate for dogs about 85%, which all things considered, isn’t a terrible number. With so few kennels and such a limited budget, they are vulnerable all the time – an influx of owner surrenders, a hoarding situation, a large number of legal seizure dogs, and things could turn very dark.

I couldn’t help but also wonder what happens when their anonymous donor is no longer funding their spay/neuter or the partners they turn to for help with serious medical are all tapped out. Or the community doesn’t come through with food donations?

Despite the email handle of ‘PatcoPound’, the shelter is trying to be more shelter than pound. Hopefully, that metamorphosis will continue.

Until each one has a home,


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Learn more about what is happening in our southern shelters and rescues in the book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, 2020). It’s the story of a challenging foster dog who inspired me to travel south to find out where all the dogs were coming from. It tells the story of how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. Find it anywhere books are sold. A portion of the proceeds of every book sold go to help unwanted animals in the south.

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