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Macon County Animal Services builds “catio” with Petco grant

In December 2020, residents of Macon County swarmed the online Petco Foundation contest in support of a grant opportunity for Macon County Animal Services. While Macon County did not receive the top prize of $25,000, they were awarded third place— $5,000! 

Macon County Animal Services was entered into the Petco Foundation contest after Shawnna Pollak’s heartwarming story about how her adopted dog, Franklin, was selected as one of 50 national Holiday Wishes winners from thousands of submissions in 2020.  

Shawnna first met Franklin while driving over the mountain heading into Macon County, when he ran out in front of her car. Shawnna called Macon County Animal Services, who took in the dog to try to locate their owner; when no owner was found, and Franklin was available for adoption, Shawnna knew she had to have him. 

“A few weeks later, COVID-19 hit the United States and I volunteered to care for the most vulnerable patients,” said Pollak. “As an essential health care worker, my contribution was primarily intubating those that needed mechanical ventilation. Because intubation aerosolizes the virus, my colleagues and I were at a higher risk of infection. Because my mother was immunocompromised, we decided I would isolate from the family and sleep in the basement. During this time, I felt alone and scared of the uncertainty… so my new little Pit Bull came downstairs and isolated with me. He was with me every second that I wasn’t at the hospital. We cuddled, cried, potty trained him, and mostly watched old movies. He comforted me at a time no one else could, and I witnessed him come out of his shell. With a history of depression, I was on the verge of a downward spiral. My patients were dying alone and my colleagues were getting sick. I felt isolated but knew I wasn’t. Franklin would be there to greet me with those big eyes when I got home to shower and zoom with family.”

With support from the community, Shawnna’s story put Macon County Animal Services in 3rd place and they were gifted $5,000 to spend however needed at the shelter. 

While we have learned so more about COVID-19 transmission since Pollak first found Franklin, the realities of the virus are still very pertinent, as are lasting impacts, such as the reduced number of volunteers and staff at the animal shelter. Looking for a way to best serve the pets that come into the shelter, Ellen Holbrooks and staff decided constructing a safe outdoor options for the shelter’s cats would give them a new activity to counter the lack of visitors and play due to the lingering impacts of COVID19. 

Macon County Animal Services now features a “catio” or “cat patio” adjacent to the kitten room at the shelter, which was completed in the summer of 2021. A catio is an outdoor enclosure that keeps cats and birds and wildlife safe. Catios offer cats healthy exercise time as well as safety from outdoor hazards like cars, predators and poisons.

A window was placed in the outside wall of the kitten room in the main lobby of the shelter and can be opened and closed as staff allow. On the outside of the window is a cat tower that is located in a shaded enclosure that lets the animals spend some time outside while also having the ability to go in and out as they please. 

While being outside provides stimulation and enrichment, the dangers of the outdoors puts free-roaming cats at risk and poses a serious threat to wildlife. Catios are the perfect compromise, giving cats the enrichment they crave while keeping them away from wildlife and other dangers.

The catio also gives the shelter’s cats a little extra room to stretch their legs, especially during times of shelter overcrowding, which is currently the case. Macon County Animal Services is currently running an overpopulation special for both cats and dogs — cats for $10 and dogs for $20 — due to the shelter being at capacity. 

Open to the Public, are 9 am to 12 pm and 1 pm to 4 pm Monday-Friday. They are closed for lunch from 12 pm to 1 pm. To better serve the public, please continue to call 828-349-2106 to make an appointment. Animal Control Officers remain available after-hours for animal related EMERGENCIES by calling 911. 

About the Petco Foundation

At the Petco Foundation, we believe that every animal deserves to live its best life. Since 1999, we’ve invested more than $290 million in lifesaving animal welfare work to make that happen. With our more than 4,000 animal welfare partners, we inspire and empower communities to make a difference by investing in adoption and medical care programs, spay and neuter services, pet cancer research, service and therapy animals, and numerous other lifesaving initiatives. We also partner with Petco stores and animal welfare organizations across the country to increase pet adoptions. So far, we’ve helped more than 6.5 million pets find their new loving families, and we’re just getting started.

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