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  • Writer's pictureSusan Houser

Polk County, NC

Polk County, located in the North Carolina foothills southeast of Asheville, has a human population of 21,000. The Foothills Humane Society (FHS) is a non-profit animal shelter that handles stray intake and animal sheltering for all of Polk County. The shelter also serves towns in northern Greenville and Spartanburg counties over the border in South Carolina, which adds about 4,000 to the human population served by the shelter. The shelter describes itself as “open admission.”

FHS reports very high save rates. On a website page that is no longer available, the shelter reported that its save rates were 98.7% in 2010, 97.8% in 2011, and 98.9% in 2012 (the 2011 statistics are available here, and 11-month statistics for 2012 here). They reported taking in 1705 cats and dogs in 2012, including feral cats. The shelter e-mailed me their full statistics for 2012 upon request, which verify the 98.9% figure for that year. The shelter reported no owner-requested euthanasia, and had a 97% live release rate if the “died or lost in shelter care” category is included in euthanasias. For 2013, the shelter reported that it “maintained a 98% placement (live release) rate.” Intake was 1202 animals, or 1609 if feral cats are included.

One of the big reasons for the success of FHS is the Po’ Kitties program, which was started in 2007. Po’ Kitties performs TNR on feral cats in the shelter’s service area, and is the default solution for feral cats. It appears to have reduced euthanasia of feral cats to near zero. FHS reports that Po’ Kitties served 540 cats in 2012 and 407 in 2013.

FHS has implemented many improvements and programs in recent years. In an annual report that is no longer available online, FHS reported that it renovated its shelter in 2012, adding a catio and an intake center. It offered low-cost spay-neuter services, including free spay-neuter for pit bulls. The shelter supplied donated cat and dog food to recipients of the Meals on Wheels program and to owners who could not afford pet food. Another key to the shelter’s success was its foster program. The shelter reported that in 2011, 262 animals went into foster. FHS also had an active transfer program, transferring 350 animals to rescue in 2011 and 393 in 2012.

In 2013, the shelter reports that it increased its return-to-owner rate by 32%, purchased a transport van with an ASPCA grant, and partnered with 30 rescue groups. It continued its shelter improvements, one of which was the addition of an on-site emergency shelter for horses. The shelter had over 100 volunteers who logged 5700 hours in 2013, and 52 active foster homes.

Polk County, NC, is counted in the Running Totals as a 90%+ community.

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