Animal Shelter of the Week: Episode 60 – Edgewater Animal Shelter, Inc

Edgewater Animal Shelter, Inc

Edgewater Animal Shelter serves the City of Edgewater, FL. They are 501(c)(3) and all donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law. They take in unwanted and stray pets from the City of Edgewater and try and find loving homes for those that are able to be adopted. The shelter also provides wellness services to the public. This includes low-cost spay and neuter, vaccinations, microchips, and flea and heartworm medications with a vet exam or prescription from your veterinarian. The shelter has an in-house groomer providing a full array of grooming services available by appointment. They participate in the Edgewater, New Smyrna Beach and Oak Hill TNR programs, providing spay and neutering services to feral cats.


Website: http://www.edgewateranimalshelter.org/  

“Welcome to the Animal Shelter of the Week podcast, where we feature outstanding organizations from around the country that are helping animals and the people who rescue them. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert connects animal shelters with volunteers to do animal transport and fostering. Learn more and sign up for free at www.Doobert.com. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.

 The Edgewater Animal Shelter is a nonprofit organization that serves the city of Edgewater, Florida. They take in unwanted and stray pets and try to find loving homes for those that are able to be adopted. The shelter also provides wellness services to the public. This includes low-cost spay and neutering services, vaccinations, microchipping and flea, and heartworm medications.

 Hi, Roxanne. Welcome to the show. Hi. How are you today? I’m doing fairly well. Getting through my day. How are you? I’m very good to really, thank you. Perfect. So you are the Director of the Edgewater Animal Shelter in Florida. Is that correct? That’s correct. I am. Awesome. So I want you to just jump in and tell me a little bit about your organization and what it is you do over there. We are a city shelter, which in our county, we’re the only city shelter. Most everything else is a humane society or county-run. So we just serve the city of Edgewater and we take in unwanted pets and strays. We work with Animal Control. We have an Animal Control Officer, we work very closely with. We also offer services to the public, low cost, spay and neuter. We do wellness clinics. We offer flea and heartworm medication, and we also participate in three cities trap/neuter/release program for feral cats. We do a lot of community activities. We’ll go to the schools and teach animal care. In a normal world, not right now, obviously. But program of the library program we do all kinds of stuff . We have an in-house grooming program where you could bring your animal for low-cost grooming.

 I got that you guys kind of served just the city of Edgewater. Now, for those of us that are kind of not in that area, is Edgewater kind of a big area? I mean, overall, what is your community like over there? We are south of Daytona Beach and we’re East of Orlando. It’s a small city, a large town, a small city. It’s a small community. So what is the animal situation like within your community? Do you guys have, like, an overpopulation problem? Do you get a lot of strays? Kind of paint us a picture of that? We do have a lot of strays. We have a very large Pitbull population. For some reason, it’s a thing. There’s a lot of, I have 20, probably 25 dogs in the shelter right now and 3/4 of them are Pitbulls. There is a very large, feral cat problem here.

 Our shelter can hold 25 dogs. We often have more small dogs. We have a small dog room so we can put more dogs in the shelter, because of that. We put small dogs away from the large dogs. We can hold up to 100 cats. We don’t obviously like to have 100 cats at any time. I need to get about 45 right now because we’ve been really trying hard to adopt. This time of year, kittens are a problem. People bring us boxes of kittens that they found on the road or in their yard. In the last two years, we have been spaying and neutering feral cats like mad. With the different cities, different communities, and the trappers and the kitten population has gone down, so that’s a positive. It’s always around springtime, where the kittens just sprout like bunny rabbits, almost. That starts in about March, and it runs until June or July. We’ve done pretty well this year with kittens, we haven’t had too many. It hasn’t been too terribly bad. Yeah, but most of our challenges are people. They just surrender their pets because they get a puppy.  And it’s just like everywhere else. They decide, Oh, it’s not a cute puppy anymore. I can’t afford it. I can’t, you know, all the things. Mostly surrenders are our biggest problem.

 Would you say that that’s one of the bigger challenges that your organization faces is a lot of owners coming in to surrender their pets? Surrenders? Yeah. It’s very possibly, I believe, I mean, obviously, money is our biggest concern. But as far as the animals go, yes, owner surrenders. So does that tie into kind of how you guys do your checks for those who kind of want to adopt? Do you guys like, thoroughly check the potential adopters? Yes, we have a reputation of being very tough. The city used to actually run the shelter, and now it is run by a nonprofit in conjunction with the city. So when I took over, there wasn’t really a clear vision of what a good adopter was. So the first thing that we did was we put protocols in place. We do a background check, we check vet records. We check court records for any crazy things. We check vet records to make sure any current or former pets were up to date on vaccinations, spayed, neutered, all those things. If you are not a homeowner and you have a landlord, even if it’s a cat, we contact your landlord to make sure that it’s okay to have a pet. The biggest reason for returns, before I started was, we got a Pitbull, and then their landlord said, You can’t have it and they brought him back. 

We also do a three day Foster to Adopt program. We call it FTA, where you come in and you meet a pet and you think you want a pet, we make you go back home and think about it for 24 hours, so we don’t have any buyer’s remorse. Then you come back and you take it home for up to 72 hours to see how it blends in with your family and how it works. It could be longer. We’ve had people keep him for a week or, you know, we have one that was out for months, and that’s okay. We would rather have you sure that it’s gonna be a good fit, then have to pet brought back later or go somewhere else. So the Foster to Adopt works very well, and our return rate at adoptions has dropped about 80% since we can put that in place, where it’s kind of like a test drive for everybody. Again, that’s definitely a good thing to offer. I wish more organizations would offer stuff, specifically in my area because we get that a ton where you know, people are adopting animals left and right because, you know like you mentioned, they’re a cute little puppy or a cute little kitten and, you know, but then they come to find out like, Okay, that puppy or that kitten grow up, and they’re not the cute little fluff balls running around, you know, they’re actually big animals. I definitely think that that’s great, that you guys kind of cracked the whip on your checks like that. We want to make sure the animals go to good homes, but that’s not the whole point of it. We want them to stay in that home for the remainder of their life. So I love hearing that you guys do that.

 So I know that you mentioned that pit bulls are a big deal in your community. Do you guys by chance are you in an area where the dogfighting and everything is kind of big over there? Is that why? Yeah, we know of circumstances in which that’s the case, proving it is another manner. Our patrol officers are very good at identifying issues. We have a spay/neuter law, so when they come in, not neuter and then we’ve become very good at judging if they’ve come from a fighting kind of thing or breeding operation. There is a lot of breeding, animal backyard breeders. There’s a lot of those around here and then it’s mostly Pitbulls, and I don’t, I’m sure it’s due to fighting, but I couldn’t prove it. Yeah, but I mean, that’s good that you guys are more aware of, you know, the things that are going on and to have a keen eye for kind of having that idea, that that’s kind of the world that they’ve come from. It’s a good thing to be on top of. So I mean, that situation is always sad to hear about, but I always like that you guys can be aware of it and train yourselves how to handle that situation. Yes. 

So, Roxanne, do you guys have any type of programs? I know, I want to kind of skip back a little bit. You guys said that you guys go to the schools and you work about animal welfare. What are some more programs that you guys offer? And do you have a favorite one that ranks the top on your list? We do a lot of things. We have the girl scouts come in. They do a program. We’ve had Eagle Scouts build us their Eagle Scout project, for our shelter. Building beds and doing you know, they built us a Catio one year. So we work with them. We work with the rotary in town. They put up fences for us. We have a lot of community outreach, our community, pretty much funds our shelter. And we get a stipend from the city. But the people who come in and get their dog groomed or the people who take advantage of our wellness clinic or get their animals spayed and neutered or choose to buy their flea medicine from us, that’s what funds our shelter, along with donations. We don’t have any big grants or any of that. It’s completely a community shelter so that I think, the fact that we’re able to run and stay afloat, strictly with community support, I think it’s huge. That definitely is. You know, the support of your community is always, you know, a top priority. You want people to know about you, and you want people to know about the great work that you’re doing. So the fact that you guys can bring the Girl Scouts in and go to schools and work with people of your community in general, that’s a huge thing. Especially for nonprofit organizations, you know, that’s kind of what you guys rely on. Totally rely on.

 So you guys mention that you guys do the TNR with three different communities. I kind of want to talk about that a little bit. So how does that work? If you guys are the shelter for Edgewater, what other communities do you guys kind of step out about, for the TNR programs? We service New Smyrna Beach, which is the closest city to us and Holly Hill, which is a tiny little town, south of us. And how it works is there’s a couple of kitten rescues, cat rescues, but is primarily trappers. These are women, on their own time, who go out into the community with Concerned Citizens For Animal Welfare, is the name of the organization and they go out and they trap cats. Wildcats that are out hanging in peoples yards, in the woods, wherever. They trap them, and they bring them to the shelter in the morning, drop them off. We spay and neuter them, and then they come pick them up in the afternoon. They keep them overnight, and they re-release them into whatever colony they came from. We have cat colonies. We have 44 colonies, just in Edgewater. Oh my goodness. The numbers of cats in the colonies are dropping. This is just Edgewater. New Smyrna has colonies. Holly Hill has colonies.

 So they all have a caretaker. So the caretaker feeds them in the morning and at night. Make sure they’re okay. If they see one who’s, you know, looks sick or they try to get it out of there.  Trap it, however, usually bring it to us. If it needs to be euthanized, we euthanize it. If you can touch them, a lot of times a feral cat, you can’t touch, which is why they have to be trapped. The population has gone way down, in the last two years that we’ve been doing this program, the wildcat population. Then the city’s either get grants or have a budget. Our city has a budget, actually, for TNRs. So we take care of the animal at a very reduced rate. We give it vaccinations and then it goes back. And when we bill the city and they pay us pretty much for the TNR’s, and that’s pretty much for all three cities. She’ll come in on Tuesday and she will spay or neuter 25 cats in one day.

 Okay, that was actually my next question was for vets services. Do you guys have, like, an on-site vet, or do you guys work with a local vet? We have a vegetarian who is actually on our board of directors, and she has the contract. We have a contract with the city to run the shelter. She is the veterinarian who’s under contract. She’s actually a large animal, that she has her own vet clinic and she is mobile. She goes around, takes their horses and goats and cattle and whatever. And then she is in the shelter two days a week. We do a Wellness Clinic on Thursdays. We do outside surgeries of people’s pets on Thursday mornings and on Tuesday, all day they do TNR, and then we do one Wellness Clinic the first Saturday of the month, normally. One Wellness Clinic a month on Saturday, which runs usually from like 9 to 2, and people can walk in and get Rabies shots, flea meds, heartworm tests. You know, nail trims, weigh their animal, all the things. And it’s much, much less expensive than a veterinarian, and we don’t charge an office visit. So for low income or really anybody, I mean, it’s a Rabies shot for $11. Where can you go and get a Rabies shot for $11? Nowhere. Yes. That was my thought. Exactly. I was like, that’s kind of cool. You know you don’t hear about stuff like that. So the fact that you will make it easier for, you know, pet owners, vet services for anybody. I mean, anybody knows even hospital bills for humans is just outrageous.

 Well, what we were found to is people will say, Well, I can go for $9 get a Rabies shot at the mobile clinic. Well, once you get that Rabie shot at the mobile clinic, you better be sure you don’t lose that paperwork because you can’t get it back. Where we have an actual veterinarian office and a computer system. And we can fax your vet records to your apartment complex where your new veterinarian or we can print them out for you. It’s totally different from a mobile clinic. It’s a real live vet office. That is definitely a valid point. Like I personally didn’t even think of something like that. I think that that’s awesome, that you guys are aware of that and that you pointed that out because I would have never thought about a mobile veterinary not being able to keep your records. So that’s pretty concerning in a way. What happens if you get a mobile clinic if you don’t keep them. They don’t have a computer or they don’t, it’s basically getting your vaccinations and here’s your Rabies certificate. Goodbye. So if you ever need to replace that Rabies tag or any, have any of your records shot records, because they’re not gonna have them for you. But I mean, see, like you guys have thought about stuff like that. Where is, you know, people like me, I’m familiar with this industry, but you know, not fully deep into the waters with it. So it’s like, that’s news to me, and it definitely is something that people should be concerned about. 

So I want to pivot a little bit, and I know that we’ve kind of discussed you know, a lot of the challenges that you guys face, you know, the owner surrendering and funding. But currently, right now, our world is experiencing the whole COVID-19 Pandemic. How has this whole situation affected you guys as an organization? First of all, it has hit us very hard financially because we are not open. We are open right now for appointments only. So, for instance, today we have our voicemail, it directs you to an email, and then people email us and they’re, say, I need flea medication so then one of our vets will call them back and say, OK, well, you can come at this time. Everything’s by appointment only. So we have no walk-ins getting flea medication. We have no walk-in anything right now. If you want to adopt an animal right now, we have our Facebook page, and then we have a group that has posts our animals in Virtual Adoptions we’re calling it. And you apply online for whichever pet you’re interested in, or any pet and our adoption coordinator will go through and do the process and approve you. And then you make an appointment to come in and meet a pet, that dog whatever. And if you’re approved and you come for your appointment and you find a match, then you adopt. That’s not normally how it works. Normally if you want a cat, you can just walk in, go into our, we have what we call an open cattery. Our cats are not all in cages all day long. They all take turns being loose throughout the day. So, man meet cat just goes I like this cat. I like that cat or this kitten and then you can choose a pet that way. Now there is none of that going on. You have to apply and be approved and make an appointment. And then you can come in and look at the cats. The same thing with dogs you can apply, get approved, and then come meet a dog. So it’s very challenging. The adoption side of it. 

And the financial side of it, our walk-in donations aren’t happening. People have to make an appointment to bring us donations. We operate on donations, you know, cat litter, garbage bags, copy paper, all of those things people bring us, walk in the door and hand it to us. And they can’t do that. They have to either leave it outside, on a bench or call us and say, Can I come by and bring you the 500 lbs of cat litter I just bought. So that part is very not having regular business hours, everything by appointment. We have to have somebody basically sitting on email all the time, watching for these emails to come through. So that’s challenging.

 People wanting to just surrender their pets because they’re afraid they’re gonna make them sick. We’ve had that start up just recently, and people who just say I can’t afford my pet anymore. We have a stockpile of dog food and cat food that we don’t, we use a certain brand. Obviously, we don’t want our pets to get sick from changing dog food and cat food all the time, so we use a certain brand. So when we get donations of things we don’t use, we keep that and in our community, there is a pet food pantry that we either donate to there. This time, we’ve been holding it all, and when someone comes in and says I need to surrender my pet or calls us, we say, What’s the issue? And if they say I can’t afford to feed it, we said come on over and get a bag of food because I would rather give you a bag of dog food or cat food, then you give me your pet. That’s definitely cool that you guys offer that.

 One of the things that kind of popped in my mind was due to this whole pandemic, are you guys seeing a skyrocketing number of people wanting to adopt during this time? Or are you seeing more people wanting to surrender their pets because they can’t afford to keep them? It’s about even right now. We’ve had a lot of cat adoptions in the last two weeks. I would say we’ve had quite a few dogs go out. Our dog process, I said, it’s a little bit more complicated if you have children and you need to bring your kids in to meet the dog. If you have another pet, if you have another dog, the dog has to come in. We do meet and greets, and so it’s a little more complicated. It works, though it really does work. You cannot walk into that shelter tomorrow and walk out that day with the dog. It doesn’t happen, and that’s why the return rate is so low. But we haven’t seen a huge number of surrenders, yet. We’ve had a lot of inquiries and then we’ve explained No, we can’t take any surrenders right now, but we can help you take care of your pet. And we’ve had a mild increase in adoptions. I wouldn’t say huge, you know.

 Okay, that’s good to hear. I know some of the organizations that I have talked to or just kind of ones that have reached out to us in general, they are experiencing, you know, high numbers of people are home all the time. So what are they wanting to do? They’re wanting to adopt animals. And I actually talked to a lady the other day. She is having a hard time keeping animals in their care because every time that they get, you know, they transport animals in, people are adopting them out. I like to see the differences, you know, from different areas within the U. S. in general, just because everything is so different, you know, from city to city, state to state, etcetera. So that’s definitely good to hear that you guys don’t have like, those skyrocketing numbers because ultimately what happens is everybody’s home right now. So of course, everybody wants animals. But what’s gonna happen down the line when everybody has to go back to work? I think that part of the thing too, with adoptions, it depends on the process.

There’s a shelter, a humane society near us right, who just like last week said we’re gonna waive all of our adoption fees. We don’t give away dogs. We don’t give away animals because it’s just like anything else. If you don’t pay for something or do something in order to get it, what’s the value of it is less, in our opinion, so we don’t give animals away. Someone comes in and pays the adoption fee for a certain animal and we say, Okay, this cat’s adoption fee is paid, they still have to go through the regular process. They still have to be vetted the same way as any adopter, so that cuts down on the riffraff. But if you’re giving away animals, your adoption rates are gonna skyrocket. Yes, definitely. If you don’t have a strict process, if you could walk into the shelter and walkout at the same time with an animal with no vetting, your adoption rates are gonna be higher than a shelter who does a lot of vetting. We know I know of both. You know, I know ones who don’t. And I know once you do. So it just depends. I would be interested in what their return rate is, too, if their adoption rates are really high, any time. And it definitely makes sense, you know. And we’ve got some organizations, like I said, that we talked to. They’ve got their checks and their screenings that they do also. But, you know, I think it’s just ultimately, I like to see just how different it is. It’s kind of like when you talk about the state. Some states have better animal welfare laws than others. And so you know that obviously, that affects an organization. 

So I want to dig in a little bit to your tie into the Edgewater Animal Shelter. How long have you been there? And how did you kind of get started there? I volunteered there about 12 years ago. And I became friends with an Animal Control Officer, at the time, who was in  officer then, and probably what year was it? 2016 they were taken over by a nonprofit. Several years ago, and it wasn’t doing very well. It was struggling. And so one of the Animal Control Officers called me on the phone. I run a business in town. I have another business. And he said, What’s your schedule? And I said I’m busy. Why? And he says, can you come in here and see if you could figure out what’s going on? What’s wrong? Why give them money and not make money? But, you know, be able to operate. I said, sure, I’ll come in to take a look. And that was four years ago. Six months to right the ship and then I was gonna leave. And I never left. So that’s how it started. That’s good. And, you know, figuring you started volunteering there 12 years ago, that’s a good time frame to be there. You’ve kind of seen how the organization has evolved over time, and I’m sure that you guys have had plenty of growth in that amount of time, also right? Yeah, the last couple of years is really it’s really taken off a lot more. We’ve had a lot of, just the population of our city growing. There’s a lot of wealth. Well it was until now. I don’t know if it’s that good now. But, you know, since 2010, 2012, a lot of people have moved into the community. There’s a lot of new homes being built. All kinds of things have been going on in the community. Community size itself has increased. Therefore, we’ve had to increase.

 So how would you say that that’s going to, and I know this is kind of a harder question to answer just due to the whole pandemic going on. But how do you guys plan on evolving for the year of 2020? Do you guys have any big plans for new programs or anything that you would be willing to share with us? We, right now, we’re kind of just rolling along. Seeing how things are going. We were doing very well as far as fundraising and adoption. All the things were clicking pretty well. We have a really good staff. Things were going along really well, and then this happened. So right now, our focus is to continue to exist, really, because it costs a lot of money to maintain the operation that we have and with being closed, said without being able to do our regular functions. It’s gonna be tough. And so our main goal right now is to stay alive. Which small businesses all have the same issue. We’re just trying to cut any kind of extra spending. Get as many donations of, you know, food, litter, all the things, so that we don’t have to spend money, as we can, just so we can stay afloat. That’s our mingle now, because of this. Yes, and you know what, it’s valid and good gold to have. I mean, right now it’s hard, especially when you are a business that relies solely on donations. And what else are you going to do if you guys can’t operate, as you know, normal business status, and you’ve got to focus on the ways that you can help the community? And I think that you guys being a resource for the people of your community, you know, trying to encourage them to keep their pets. And, you know, I think that you guys are doing a great amount of service to your community, just by doing that. That’s showing that you guys are still doing your part and you’re standing strong and hopefully, this whole COVID-19 pandemic will end soon. That’s what we are hoping for.

 Oh, Roxanne, I’m so happy that you were able to join us. I want to kind of just get a little bit of information from you if some of our listeners, they’re feeling generous and they want to help you guys out by donating, or if there’s anybody in the area that possibly wants to volunteer or anything of that nature. Once all of this kind of dies down and people are able to do that again, how can they go about getting in contact with you guys? Our website is EdgewaterAnimalShelter.org, spelled out. Our email is on there. All of our contact information. Our phone number is (386)957-3994. Our email. All of our applications. Our foster application, our volunteer application, they’re all on our website. As well as our wish list and a button to donate. You can pretty much do it all on that website.

 So do you have anything else that you’d like to share with us today before we wrap things up? No, I thank you very much for inviting us to be on. We appreciate any and all attention that we get. Of course. I mean, it’s always good, right? It’s a good way to get your name out there a little bit more for those who may not be aware and overall talking with us about the great work that you guys are doing and the struggles you’re facing and how you’re overcoming them. And that’s ultimately the biggest thing for us is, you know, helping other organizations. That may be listening, you know, trying new things. And this is what’s working for you guys and, you know, so thank you so much for taking part in that and sharing with all of us more about the Edgewater Animal Shelter and how you guys do things. You guys are killing it over there, and hopefully, once all this dies down, you guys can get back on that good streak, for year 2020 and years to come. Excellent. Thank you very much for having us Kimberly, we appreciate it.

 Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a Dooberteer, sign up for free at www.Doobert.com. At Doobert, we know that together we can save more animals.”

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