A Person Is The Best Thing To Happen To A Shelter Pet. BE That PERSON.*
They are our best friends.
When you’ve had an awful day, there is something to be said for being greeted at the door by a dog with its tail wagging, or a cat who wants nothing more than to curl up at your side.
This is why we give them our all. This is why we, the Citizens Committee for the Lakewood Animal Shelter, give so much of ourselves to give Lakewood’s pets a second chance.
You might know us well, or perhaps not at all. So allow us to introduce ourselves. “CCLAS” is the Citizens Committee for the Lakewood Animal Shelter, Inc. CCLAS, (pronounced "claws") is the support group for the Lakewood Animal Shelter. CCLAS is a small, volunteer organization that works alongside the Lakewood Animal Shelter, in an effort to improve and protect the lives of Lakewood’s pet companion population. By providing financial and volunteer resources, we aid in the adoption of abandoned animals and in their well-being during their stay at the shelter.
The Lakewood Animal Shelter is not a “no-kill” shelter. They are a city-run shelter which is required to take in any stray animals from the city of Lakewood. This includes lost or abandoned pets, and feral cats which have been trapped by residents. Like any shelter, LAS is sometimes forced to euthanize sick or dying cats or those with extreme behavioral issues. Feral cats are completely unsocialized and untouchable.
Becoming a “no-kill” community is a laudable goal, but before we get there, we need to determine where the biggest obstacles are, and how to address them. The three reasons that animals are euthanized at the shelter are because (1) they are sick, (2) the shelter has capacity issues, and (3) they are feral. CCLAS, the shelter, and the Lakewood Community are working on addressing all three of these problems. We have made vast improvements in the past several years, and we have many goals ahead of us.
While the shelter staff once had no recourse for sick animals in their care, increased donation funds have allowed CCLAS to provide the Lakewood Animal Shelter with a consistent supply of flea and worming medications that are administered to the animals upon arrival to the shelter, as well as antibiotics for as-needed care. If a sick animal is friendly and adoptable, they are pulled out and placed in foster care so they can get the medication and TLC they need. We have even been able to provide surgery when necessary.
Lakewood Animal Shelter currently has only has 12 cages for adoptable cats, which means space is limited, especially during kitten season where we can take in as many as 9 cats over the course of 24 hours! Fortunately, we have a great group of volunteers who step up to foster. Temporarily taking a friendly cat into one’s home frees up a cage so the shelter doesn’t run out of room.
Late last year the Lakewood Animal Shelter received a significant donation from the estate of a previous adopter. We are happy to announce plans for a complete shelter renovation and expansion is in the works. A local interior designer and architect, both previous fosters for the shelter, have volunteered their time and skill set to draw up the design plans. The bulk of the renovations will take place in the current cat adoption room, and will double the number of cat kennels from 12 to 24. It will also increase the space for additional kennels in the quarantine area, and will allow for more storage and a bigger vaccination/medical treatment area. Some funds will be used to improve the work space for the shelter staff and the dog kennels will get a facelift, as well. Finally, some long-overdue updating of the shelter facade, signage, and landscaping will help to attract more adoptive families.
We have also partnered with both Petco at Westgate Mall and Pet’s General Store in Lakewood to help alleviate some of our capacity issues. We currently have one cat up for adoption at Petco, and one cat up for adoption at Pet’s General store, freeing up cages at the shelter. Our board members and volunteers also spend their Saturdays and Sundays holding adoption events at Petco several times a month, giving the animals more exposure and increasing awareness in the community.
By far the biggest reason cats at the shelter are euthanized is because of behavioral problems. Feral cats are not socialized and probably never will be. Please keep in mind that it costs more taxpayer dollars for the cat to be trapped, held, killed, and disposed of at the county shelter than it does to humanely trap, sterilize, vaccinate, and release the cat back to its outdoor home where it's provided food and water by community caretakers. The breeding stops, nuisance behaviors of unspayed and unneutered cats stop, and disease and malnutrition are greatly reduced.
This is exactly why CCLAS supports the city of Lakewood’s pilot TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) program in the Bird Town community. Reducing the number of the city’s feral cat population will have a significant impact on the number of cats coming into the Lakewood Animal Shelter on an annual basis. Part of the TNR program is also working on education and advocacy to make Lakewood Residents aware of the program, and encourage them to choose TNR for nuisance cats, rather than trapping them, and taking them down to the shelter for euthanasia. Birdtown TNR is hoping to expand to the rest of the Lakewood Community within the next year or two, upon the law director and city council’s approval.
These aren’t the only improvements we’ve made! Partnering with the Cleveland Animal Protective League and its low-cost program, CCLAS has worked towards its goal of spaying and neutering every cat prior to adoption. (Our previous method involved providing new owners a voucher to spay/neuter their cat.) In 2011 and 2012, we’ve spayed/neutered hundreds of cats prior to adoption. So far this year, every cat up for adoption has already been altered.
To keep the community of Lakewood informed, CCLAS has also joined the social media revolution! We now have more interactive outreach tools than ever before. We regularly update our website, our blog, and our Twitter account! Plus, we now have more than 800 followers on Facebook, and the number is growing daily. This has become the best and easiest way for our board and our volunteers to share photos and stories about our adoptable animals, as well as our upcoming events and fundraisers. It's also an extremely valuable tool for recruiting new volunteers and increasing our supporters. A newly designed, modern poster campaign around town has also helped to give CCLAS and the shelter a fresh look.
While CCLAS has made great strides, there’s still a long way to go and we cannot do it alone. We need the help and support of the community if we’re going to reach “no-kill” status. One sick litter of kittens can cost CCLAS up to $1,000 in medical bills alone, not to mention hours of volunteer time to foster, transport and care for the animals. Multiply this by the dozens of litters brought in to the shelter each year, and we have a real problem on our hands. Donations in the range of $25-50 help us spay or neuter an animal, while donations in the $50-100 range help us provide medical care for a litter or a sick cat.
Another great way to help is by fostering. Fostering a litter of kittens in one’s home gives them a better start in life. Kittens in a foster home can run, jump, and play to develop their coordination and get the exercise they need. When the shelter reaches capacity, we often have to pull out adult cats that have been there for a while, even if they are friendly, in order to make room for incoming animals. These foster cats are given exposure on our website and taken to adoption events in order to find them a home.
The best way to help our organization, our city shelter, and the animals in our community is to adopt in Lakewood. Our end goal is to find all of our animals loving homes. So spread the word! Like us on Facebook and share our status. Tell your friends about the animals we have up for adoption! Volunteer to help out at an event, attend our fundraisers, or hang flyers around town!
*Tagline of The Shelter Pet Project campaign...
Justine Rose, CCLAS Board President
Current CCLAS Board President, Justine Rose, first got involved with the Lakewood Animal Shelter in 2008, when she took home a pregnant mama cat to foster. A week later, she had a home with mama and eight kittens! The following year, she took home an orange mama cat, with a litter of five. Justine officially joined the Citizen's Committee for the Lakewood Animal Shelter in 2009, and she's been working with the homeless animals of Lakewood ever since. Justine lives in a nearby community with Athena, a friendly little Calico, and Sneakers, a happy little black cat.