Twenty-three Wise County families got a little bigger Saturday.
Wise County Animal Shelter played host to Empty the Shelter Day, a North Texas adoption effort held to encourage pet adoptions by waiving the fees associated with adopting an animal.
Thirteen cats and 10 dogs were adopted out by the shelter – 20 more than on that day last year. The shelter’s sign-in sheet showed that more than 120 people passed through the shelter’s doors Saturday.
Supervisor Linda Bryan said her facility wouldn’t have been able to participate in the event if it weren’t for the efforts of a group of local women, dubbed the Shelter Buddies.
“Since this set of volunteers we have now started, the adoption and rescue rates have tripled,” Bryan said.
These efforts include organizing auctions, bake sales and garage sales to raise funds for events and maintain a standing budget. While this is the first time Wise County has taken part in Empty the Shelter Day, the volunteers have hosted similar events for several years.
“I can’t waive the fees, so the shelter buddies used their designated bank account to sponsor fees,” Bryan said. “On most events, they’ll pay for the adoption, which is about $30, and then they’ll give out a voucher worth about $100 for the spaying or neutering.”
Brenda Argraves has been volunteering with the Shelter Buddies for more than two years. She helps run the group’s online campaign, which includes posting photos and details on Facebook to encourage adoption.
The group’s page, Urgent Animals at the Wise County Animal Shelter, is followed by more than 6,100 people – almost equal to the population of Decatur.
“When I first started going to the shelter, I was just going to drop off food, bleach, and some other supplies, but I saw a need,” Argraves said.
The Wise County Shelter serves the entire county, more than 922 square miles. As many as 25 animals can come in on any given day, Bryan said. The shelter only has 33 kennels.
Initially, Argraves said she worked with the shelter to increase the chances of adoption by doing things the staff doesn’t always have time to do – spend time with each animal.
“They really don’t have the time to take them out and make them feel good and so that’s what we do,” Argraves said. “We get their confidence back.”
While working with the animals, Argraves discovered something she was truly passionate about.
“When we helped get one out, it makes you want to get another out, and another out, and another out” Argraves said. “It’s addicting.”
The group includes seven regular volunteers and several more who help out when they can. Although it can be fulfilling work, Argraves said each of them needs to take the occasional break. Volunteering can be physically and emotionally exhausting.
“When you work really hard and you put hours into organizing a rescue and it falls through, and the dog ends up being euthanized because of lack of space, it’s devastating,” Argraves said. “Some of these ladies put their heart and soul into it.”
As a result of their efforts, the Shelter cleared out most of its residents Saturday. Across North Texas, more than 2,200 animals were adopted and three shelters reported being completely empty.
“Every single one we get out is a win,” Argraves said.
Wise County can chalk Saturday up as a resounding victory.