Orange County Animal Services Initiates New Program That Keeps More Pets in Homes

Public Health & Safety

In early September, Orange County Animal Services had to move quickly when a canine pneumovirus case was found in a shelter dog. In order to quickly isolate the exposed dog population, the intake of healthy and friendly dogs was suspended. As a result, staff began providing owners with advice over the phone. The results were so overwhelmingly positive, the Intake Diversion Program was born.

“When we started suspending intakes, we had to cancel approximately 200 pet surrender appointments,” explained Diane Summers, manager for Orange County Animal Services. “We thought we could at least provide consultations for these people, and in the process of doing that, we learned in many cases they didn’t want to surrender their dogs; they just needed a little help and guidance.”

This represented a major revelation for Animal Services staff, who realized that by changing procedures and providing phone consultations before owners drive their dogs to the shelter (and mentally prepare themselves to give them up), they are more likely to keep them once they have solutions to their issues.

“The Intake Diversion Program is designed to divert intakes by making people aware of the variety of resources available in our community,” said Summers. “It’s about helping dog owners with their individual issues, whether they cannot afford grooming, or medical care, or food… or perhaps they cannot find pet-friendly housing. There are resources available that can help with these things.”

Animal Services staff will meet once a week to review the information they receive from the consultations and build their list of community resources to help people with their pet issues. In some cases, intake is unavoidable, but in others, they will recommend specific resources for training (Happy Trails Dog Training), food (pet pantries), medical issues (low-cost vet clinics), pet-friendly housing (Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando keeps a log of pet-friendly housing) and more.

“I view this as a silver lining because the virus situation was a challenge, but it gave us a chance to come up with this program,” asserted Summers. “We truly want to help people avoid giving up their dogs, so let us hear your problem, and let’s explore the available resources that can help you keep them.”

Animal Services recently announced the launch of the Intake Diversion Program when the canine pneumovirus ran its course and intakes were no longer suspended. For more information, go to Orange County Animal Services.

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